Friday, February 22, 2013
Review of The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home (2011, Sandstone Press)
The Sea Detective is a hugely enjoyable read, told in an engaging and compelling voice. An awful lot happens in its 280 pages, with its three main intersecting plot lines, but at no point does the story feel overcomplicated or underdeveloped or overly contrived. Packing so much in, in terms of historical, social and scientific contextualisation and the back stories of the various characters, whilst keep the story front and centre without the text becoming bloated or preachy is a remarkable feat. The characterisation is excellent, especially the lead characters of Cal McGill, DC Helen Jamieson, Basanti, and DI Ryan, who all are complex and three-dimensional (I especially liked Jamieson as the intelligent but overweight cop who craves recognition and acceptance, but is misjudged and mocked by her colleagues). Douglas-Home is particularly good at framing and playing out a scene and the interactions between characters. There is a strong sense of place throughout, especially with respect to rural, coastal Scotland. The plotting is, in my view is exceptional, creating a story that hooks the story in and incessantly tugs them along on a gripping, emotional journey. Overall, an excellent first novel that I’d thoroughly recommend. I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series.