Beneath the water the body sank rapidly. Above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.
When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.
The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago.
As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker. A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica. Erika soon realises this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on.
Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone is keeping secrets. Someone who doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.
I’m starting this review with a confession. I hadn’t read either of Robert Bryndza’s other two books because they were incredibly popular with (THE) Facebook book club I am a member of, and I hadn’t wanted to be disappointed by the hype they were getting. Well, daft old me. Before I read Dark Water I thought I’d better read the first book, The Girl in the Ice, just to make sure I had the backstory of the main character, Erika Foster.
I was blown away by how good it was and how much I liked the character of D.C.I. Foster. As far as I am concerned, the world cannot have sufficient strong independent minded female detectives and Erika Foster can proudly join her colleagues Helen Grace, (M.J. Arlidge) Marnie Rome (Sarah Hilary) and Karen Pirie (Val McDermid).
In Dark Water, the third D.C.I. Erika Foster novel, Bryndza puts D.C.I. Foster on assignment with a Project Team, a dedicated effort fighting organised crime and tracking significant contraband shipments. Whilst searching for heroin in a local quarry, the team finds a container with a small skeleton which has clearly been there for some years.
The body is identified as 7 year old Jessica Collins, who went missing in 1990. She left her house to go to the birthday party of a friend just down the road. But she disappeared without a trace before she got there and was never found. Amanda Baker, the D.C.I. on that case never recovered from her failure to find Jessica and bring her home.
Erika is determined that the case should be hers and is unrelenting in her endeavours to make sure she is given it, even going above her boss’s head. She turns to her old boss, Marsh, to wield some influence in getting her the case, though he tells her it is a poisoned chaliuce and one that led to Amanda Baker cracking under the pressure.
She is of course successful, but is made painfully aware that she will be held personally responsible for the success or failure of her task. She is now able to pick her own team and thus we see the return of her previous colleagues Moss and Petersen
This is a 26 year old case though and forensic evidence isn’t exactly thick on the ground. So they start at the beginning, following the path of the first case and re-examining the suspects from the initial investigation. Erika also makes contact with Amanda Baker, now retired from the Force and an embittered alcoholic. The main suspect on her case was Trevor Marksman, a local sex offender who had taken pictures and videos of Jessica though he had an unshakeable alibi, but Amanda had kept close on his tail, eventually going too far leading to him suing the Met and getting a huge compensation package. Nevertheless, Marksman lived in a halfway house that was full of sex offenders offering several potential suspects, but Amanda is also able to advise Erika and her colleague Peterson about another lead – a squatter in a derelict cottage by the quarry called Bob who poisoned and then hung himself some time after Jessica’s death.
What Erika doesn’t know is that she is being watched and that there are forces at work that are as equally determined that this case will never be resolved.
After a very close call, Erika realises that someone is prepared to go to any lengths to ensure that her case remains unsolved, which makes her all the more determined to get to the truth, whatever the cost. There will be more deaths before the case is solved.
Bryndza has achieved a strong balance of powerful plot, excellent characterisation, emotional engagement and great storytelling. Foster is multi layered character with a great backstory and a welcome addition to the canon of female sleuths and I confidently predict that that her following will grow. Dark Water is compelling and powerful and I will be looking out for the next in the series.
Dark Water is published by Bookouture on 20 Oct. 2016