Written by Sharon Bolton — That there London. It has featured in films, telly shows, songs and, of course, crime novels. But whether you see the place as a bustling metropolis or smelly, overpriced and somewhere south of Watford Gap, I doubt you’ve ever given much thought to the possibility of finding mermaids in the Thames. Well, have you?
As the story begins, Constable Lacey Flint is finding her feet as a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Unit. Her former Met CID colleagues think she is mad to have left them behind, but after the traumas of tackling three tough cases in a row, Lacey is looking for a quieter, safer life.
Some chance, because early one morning, as she wild swims in the River Thames near to her houseboat home, Lacey comes upon the body of a young woman. No biggie, because on average a body a week is pulled from the river – but this one is different…. She is tightly wrapped in burial cloths, mummy style.
The gruesome find means the ex-detective is grudgingly reunited with her former boss, DI Dana Tulloch, but Lacey is happy to stay on the outside of the investigation. However, someone, somewhere seems determined to keep her in the loop. First, tiny model boats begin mysteriously appearing on the deck of her floating home, then a heart made of sea glass and stones is constructed on the floor of her living area. She even hears someone swimming in Deptford Creek, late at night, calling her name – but when another shrouded female body is found dangling from the mast of her yacht, Lacey has no other alternative than to jump in, feet first, and immerse herself in the search for the killer. Whether Dana wants her to, or not.
Meanwhile, Lacey’s on-off relationship with undercover detective Mark Joesbury seems more off than on. Joesbury is deep in a clandestine operation and, it appears, sailing extremely close to the edge of legality. Is there any chance for these two?
Fans of Bolton’s previous six Flint and Joesbury novels (she previously wrote as SJ Bolton) will know that nothing ever runs according to plan for this pair. Both have built their lives on secrets – and this time it looks as if those secrets may have to be revealed. Lacey has made new friends along the river, including a strange set of twins who live in a lovely old house on a secluded creek. Alex is a doctor, but it is his crippled sister, Thessa, who seems to have the inside track on Lacey’s long-buried past. She finds herself drawn to the pair as her carefully constructed, supposedly safe, new world begins to crumble all around her.
Bolton has carved a niche for herself as a top-of-her-game thriller writer and A Dark and Twisted Tide is sure to keep her there. It is tautly plotted and completely engrossing, with enough edge-of-the-seat action and catch-your-breath suspense to keep you up until the last page is turned.
Great characters are expected in a Bolton book and won’t be disappointed here, but what I loved most of all was her portrayal of the Thames. It might be polluted, muddy and grey, but here the river is revealed as the true lifeblood of the city, its eddying depths and hidden creeks concealing no end of deep, dark mystery. Forget that staid, serpentine image from the EastEnders credits, on this showing, the Thames is much more dramatic than anything that ever happened on Albert Square.
As for the mermaid? You’ll just have to read the book to find out…
CFL Rating: 5 Stars