The Sea Detective

Written by Mark Douglas Home

Review written by Stephen Thornley

An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.

The Sea Detective
Penguin Books
RRP: £8.99
Released: November 5, 2015

The Sea Detective is an unusual, interesting and enthralling read. Cal McGill is a young man studying for a PhD in Oceanography. He helps to fund his studies by running Flotsam and Jetsam Investigations. A one man agency investigating where oil spills and other pollutants found in the seas may have come from for environmental organisations. He lives alone in an apartment on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Cal is unusual in that it isn't often you come across a character who is an "Oceanographer, Environmentalist and one-of-a-kind investigator". He is a complex young man who appears to have more interest in his dead grandfather than in his living father. It is an interest or more a hero worship begun from a young age and probably due in part to the death of his grandfather during the war. Estranged from his wife after less than 3 years of marriage, he wonders why he ever got married. He sees himself as a loner.

There is an interesting imaginative plot with child traffickers, paedophiles, and a murderer, but also with a 60 year old village conspiracy to cover up a shocking wartime incident. The writing is enthralling as the strands of narrative run alongside one another without appearing to be interconnected until they suddenly collide.

Cal and his environmental activities bring him to the attention of the Police and the Press. He has a campaign to bring the issue of climate change to the attention of MPs, MSPs and business leaders. Under cover of darkness Cal gets into the garden of the Environment Minister's House where he leaves an unusual and symbolic plant. He is caught on the security camera and after getting home is arrested.

Meanwhile, a far more serious and distressing story is unfolding with two young teenage girls, Preeti and Basanti, from the Bedia community in India being sold into prostitution by their poor parents. But, instead of remaining in the local area as most Bedia girls do, they are taken away to Mumbai and there sold on to a paedophile gang in Britain. They are transported to Britain, separated and imprisoned as sex slaves. Then something happens to panic the gang Preeti is deliberately drowned. Basanti eventually escapes after stabbing one of her captors, but finds herself alone in a strange city with no money and nobody to turn to, she has to live rough and scavenge to survive.

The police officer in charge of the investigation into Cal's environmentalist activities, DI Ryan, is also heading up an inquiry into a case of three feet washing up onto Scotland's shores. DI Ryan is awaiting an interview for a move to the SCDEA (Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency). Ryan dislikes his assistant DC Helen Jamieson who is a graduate entrant, she is intelligent but unattractive and therefore of no interest to Ryan. They are at loggerheads and hamper each other whenever possible.

Jamieson sees how Cal could be useful in the investigation into the washed up feet with his knowledge of currents and tides together with his weather data, but Ryan will not countenance the use of a character like McGill. When Cal is released Jamieson asks him to help unoffically with the missing feet case. They agree to work together and to upstage DI Ryan. But, Cal has his own personal mystery to solve. Prompted by an old woman's reminiscences of his grandfather Cal is drawn to visit the now uninhabited island where his grandfather's home still stands. Cal needs to find answers both for himself, his memory of his grandfather and for the memory of his mother. Then he finds himself involved in the case of the drowned young Indian girl, Preeti, when Basanti turns up at his apartment.

In this gripping read the Sea Detective will be asked to risk his own life to help catch these dangerous criminals. There is suspense, drama and a little humour too in this very well written first case of a new detective series with a difference and I will certainly be looking out for the next installment.

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