by William Shaw
Publication Date : June 26, 2018
Pages : 464
Synopsis from Publisher :
A murdered migrant is the first big case for the embattled DS Alexandra Cupidi in a new series by the acclaimed author of The Birdwatcher.
No-one knew their names, the bodies found in the water. There are people here, in plain sight, that no-one ever notices at all.
DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing - resentful teenager in tow - from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.
The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask - but these people are suspicious of questions.
It will take an understanding of this strange place - its old ways and new crimes - to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
Salt Lane is the first in the new DS Alexandra Cupidi series. With his trademark characterisation and flair for social commentary, William Shaw has crafted a crime novel for our time that grips you, mind and heart.
If you have been following my reviews for the last couple of weeks, you will have noticed that I have read and reviewed many books this year with strong female lead characters. Just when I thought the trend may have come to an end, I came upon DS Alex Cupidi. With her hard exterior but soft interior, I believe she is proof that the trend is here to stay.
Since moving from London to Kent, DS Alex Cupidi is trying to find a balance between being a good mother and a good police officer. After conducting an investigation which lead to the arrest and conviction of her first partner, she is finding it hard to bond with her colleagues. To make matters even more complicated, her daughter Zoe has withdrawn and they are finding it hard to communicate with each other.
Alex has been assigned a new partner, Jill Ferriter. Together they are working to solve the murder of a women who’s body was left in the Kent marshlands. With no identification and no clear cause of death, Jill and Alex are not entirely sure the woman’s death was not an accident. When the body of a man is found very close to their last victim, they are positive these deaths were intentional and they now have two murders to investigate. As Alex and Jill hit wall after wall, they discover a disturbing situation in which vulnerable people are being abused and murdered if they display any sign of speaking out.
I enjoy reading books by authors who can write about sensitive issues with objectivity. The victims of the murders Alex is investigating are migrant workers. Immigration is a hot topic all over the world. Shaw addresses this issue with tact and an open mind. The characters pose points from both sides of the argument. One character even changes their position on the subject. In Salt Lane, Shaw captures the frustration and hopelessness felt by people on either side of the debate, mirroring the conflicts many countries are now facing.
Salt Lane can be read without reading the prequel, The Birdwatcher first. Although if you are interested to learn the details of Alex’s feelings of exclusion from her co-workers, I suggest readers check it out. Although Alex is not the main character in The Birdwatcher, I still loved it. I am actually hoping to read more about the main character of The Birdwatcher in future books.
While reading Salt Lane I knew there was something different about Alex Cupidi, but I could not identify the difference. In some ways she’s just like many of the female lead investigators I have read-brash, ill mannered, and tough. With others like Alex, loneliness is kind of implied. They live alone, no family, few friends. With Alex, her loneliness is very much at the fore front of her story. What struck me with Alex, is that she has so much more than other female protagonists I have read, a daughter and a mother. However she is just as lonely, her inability to connect with others including her family is the source of her loneliness. This aspect made Alex more relatable than other female leads in other crime fiction books.
Salt Lane moves at a bit of a slower pace. I do enjoy books that are longer and unhurried, especially after reading a shocking and disturbing book. Although Salt Lane lacks shocks and thrills, the story is no less gripping. The victims were brutally murdered and the circumstances of their deaths are described in great detail. Shaw takes a deep dive into the investigation without it being overwhelming. Readers follow Cupidi to every witness questioning, case briefing, and interrogation. Readers looking for a book which is socially relevant, investigation driven, with a simmering pace should add Salt Lane to their list of must reads.
* Thanks to Mulholland Books for my free copy of Salt Lane*
Murder and Moore Rating :
4.5 out of 5 Stars