The Crooked Shore by Martin Edwards
With suspicious deaths, cold cases and a sumptuous setting, Edwards’ latest novel is an impressive tale of relationships centred on the Lake District. This novel follows The Dungeon House, but works well as a stand alone with some well established characters. DCI Hannah Scarlett is a determined investigator, keen to increase her team to better find leads in the twenty year old disappearance of a young local woman. Ramona Smith had a reputation locally for a complex romantic life, and her mysterious fate has cast a destructive shadow over many lives. The investigation has sprung to life again with a new tragedy that could only happen on the Crooked Shore, a special place of particular danger. Hannah’s team must work hard to track down all the potential people who may know the truth of past events and contemporary dangers. With at least one murder already committed, the desperate search for the killer must speed up to prevent more deaths.
This intense novel is written with several strands of story. Hannah is obviously a skilled and experienced detective who is keen to get her team up to full strength, with the support of the new Police Commisioner, Kit Gleadall. The Prologue features an anonymous speaker confessing to the murder of Ramona Smith, and from that moment various characters are introduced who may well fulfill that role. Edwards is extremely able to introduce three dimensional characters with realistic attitudes and personal histories that weave in and out of the narrative. The establishment of the setting is well done, with the particular atmosphere of a town and countryside of historic significance. I enjoyed the writing immensely and was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent novel.
Kingsley Melton is sitting on a bench overlooking the Crooked Shore. He is charged with selling luxury apartments at Strandbeck Manor, a difficult job for this man in his fifties, who has the air of one defeated by life. The appearance of a lone jogger barely attracts his attention, while Kingsley considers a sighting of a young man that he feels he has every reason to suspect of guilty dealings. Logan Prentice has spent time at a nursing home where Kinsley’s mother was a resident, and Kingsley believes him guilty of a crime there. While he contemplates this, the jogger becomes trapped in the sand in front of him and Kinsley can only look on in horror as the tide advances. Kingsley’s obsession with a woman who lives in an apartment in the manor comes to dominate his waking hours. It later emerges that the jogger possibly meant to end his life in an horrific way, following his father’s suicide exactly twenty years before. Gerry Lace had been the chief suspect in the disappearance of Ramona, an investigation led by the late Ben Kind. The death of his son, Darren Lace, on the beach provokes a reassessment of what really happened to Ramona, with implications for many people in the area.
This novel has real depth as both the investigators and the investigated are seen with all their interrelated stories. It is a relatively small community in a contemporary world where rumours and theories of guilt are easily communicated. This is a thriller where time is of the essence as old wounds and new dangers emerge, and Edwards maintains the tension admirably throughout, building to an exciting climax. The characters are well drawn and realistic. The plot is complex as the investigation and action takes place in the present but is affected by the past. This is a well written novel which I found completely involving and intriguing. I recommend it strongly to those who enjoy a contemporary thriller with a strong sense of place and complex characters.