Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mark Douglas-Home’s The Woman Who Walked into the Sea is a beautifully unfolding novel.

That might seem like a strange thing to say, but anyone who has ever tried to write a novel knows that middles are hard. You might have an exciting beginning and a wonderful conclusion, but often it is the middles which separate the excellent writers from the rest of us.

Mark Douglas-Home does middles well. His story unfolds a piece at a time so that the middle of the story holds up. To me, that is a great accomplishment.

When Cal McGill, The Sea Detective, meets Violet Wells, his life changes. Violet is trying to find her mother.

Twenty-six years ago, someone abandoned Violet as a newborn at the front door of a hospital in Scotland’s West Highlands near the small town of Poltown.

As Violet investigates, she concludes her mother is the woman who walked into the sea. She gave birth to Violet, abandoned her, and then committed suicide.

At least, that’s how the local police saw it.

Violet enlists Cal, a PhD oceanographer who studies tides and currents to find the bodies of people missing at sea. He has come to this stretch of shoreline to get away. The emotional toll of his job has devastated him.

But Cal is attracted to Violet. They work together to find what happen.

Much of the community is part of the murder and cover up. Everyone from a mentally ill collector of ocean debris to a wealthy long term family is involved.

A disaffected former servant, a sheep farmer who delivers groceries on the side, and the head of the gang which controls Poltown--they all play intricate parts in the story. 

Right now, the town is undergoing a bitter fight about a new wind farm with its windmills. Cal and Violet become enmeshed in that.

Small town conspiracies can be deadly, and that’s what happens here. Several people are villains. The police covered up what happened.

The Woman Who Walked into the Sea is a brooding story, much like a classic Victorian novel. Many of the main characters are unpleasant or dangerous.

And the story unfolds smoothly to the end.

If you can’t tell, I liked this story. I struggled with it some. It was so dark in places. But there is no denying it was well worth reading. 

The Woman Who Walked into the Sea is the second book in Mark Douglas-Home’s The Sea Detective series. The first was The Sea Detective.

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