Source: Review Copy
Publication: 3 May 2015 from riverrun
SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR
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. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.
SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS
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.
AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER
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 a book to savour. A meaty, action and character packed read that engages both your heart and your brain. D.S. Alex Cupidi has left the Met in the aftermath of an affair with a colleague and has moved to the Serious Crime Unit in Kent and the bleakness of Romney Marshes. Her teenage daughter Zoe is with her, but the two are not communicating too well and Alex is worried about Zoe.
In her new role she is conscious that the police gossip may well have followed her and she’s a bit prickly with her new colleagues as a result. Jill Ferriter is her junior colleague and so far she’s not too impressed with this glossy haired, short skirted young woman, whose lip gloss always seems just a bit too shiny.
The setting of Romney Marshes is beautifully evocative and perfect for this atmospheric police procedural where you never know what is going to come out of the hedgerows and with the Dungeness Power station looming large over everything, casting its dark shadow on their lives.
The body of a woman is found in the waters close to Salt Lane. She is identified as Hilary Keen and her body has been lying in the ditch for some days. Who then, was the woman who visited Julian Keen the night before the body was discovered, claiming to be his long lost mother?
Pursuing this lead inadvertently draws Alex’s boss, D.I. McAdam into an IPCC investigation and Jill Ferriter is injured. So far, for Alex Cupidi, things are not going exactly to plan.
When a North African man is discovered by a farmer in his slurry tank, it is clear he has been brutally murdered and Cupidi and Ferriter must try and find the connections that link the woman in the ditch and the murdered man.
To do that, they must find a way to win the confidence of the migrant workers, many of them in the country illegally; all of them afraid of the police and living in fear of arrest.
This is where Shaw excels; his characterisation is excellent and his description of the lives, conditions and travails of this terrified community engaged both my mind and my heart. His plotting is immaculate, his descriptions terrifying and his characterisation has depth and empathy.
As Cupidi delves into the past to bring the present to life, the cruelty and plight of migrant workers is thrown into sharp relief with the lifestyle of those who profit from the exploitation of this vulnerable community.
This is a tense and sometimes brutal read, evocatively bringing the setting to life and in the process showing that Ferriter is a much more tenacious copper than Cupidi had given her credit for and the two form a solid working relationship.
Intelligent, beautifully written and with an emotional resonance that stays long after the book is finished, this is a tight and compelling read that rewards the reader in spades.
I loved this and will eagerly await the second in this brilliant series.
About William Shaw
William Shaw was born in Newton Abbot, Devon, grew up in Nigeria and lived for sixteen years in Hackney. He has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and nominated for a Barry Award. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east.
He is the author of the Breen & Tozer crime series set in sixties London: A Song from Dead Lips, A House of Knives and A Book of Scars; and the standalone The Birdwatcher. For over twenty years he has written on popular culture and sub-culture for various publications including the Observer and the New York Times. He lives in Brighton.
Follow William Shaw on Twitter: @william1shaw
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