Borders author’s debut set to make waves

The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home

(Sandstone Press £17.99, hardback)

Summer is the best time to throw yourself into a good mystery – ideally, you want intelligent writing, vivid believable characters and a storyline that you didn’t see coming. It’s also great to discover a new writing voice. Unusually, the sea itself becomes one of the main players in this intriguing and memorable thriller by Mark Douglas-Home.

The Sea Detective is a first novel, but Douglas-Home has a impressive track record with words having edited both the Herald and the Sunday Times Scotland.

His hero, Cal McGill is more eco-warrior than detective, fearlessly planting endangered species in the gardens of politicians, much to the irritation of the police. But a surprise encounter with a very frightened young Indian girl, Basanti, draws him into darker waters.

A natural loner, his day job is as a PhD oceanography student, suits him well. But when several feet are washed up without their bodies, Cal’s knowledge of the sea and its currents, may provide crucial evidence – an accident, or was it murder?

Clever, but plain, policewoman Helen Jamieson, provides the edge needed as she is forced to work on the case with DI David Ryan, self-styled poster boy who views Jamieson with cold distain. Their relationship adds great entertainment to the story, as each tries to play the system to their advantage – it becomes clear where the real brains lie.

Meanwhile, Cal is drawn back to his own family mystery when an elderly woman reveals new information about how his grandfather really died in the Second World War. Some secrets are expected to remain at the bottom of the sea, but Cal, with his specialist knowledge, realises things aren’t as they seem. He returns to the island of his ancestors, Eilean Iasgaich Mor, determined to discover more, and, if necessary, see history rewritten.

This is a real page-turner where you can hear the characters, see the landscape and keep reading late into the night, you can’t ask for much more from a thriller. Perhaps influenced by the recent TV adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News, I can’t help thinking it would make good viewing too.

Rosamund de la Hay

z Mark Douglas-Home will be talking about The Sea Detective with Allan Massie at the Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells, 7.30pm, Thursday July 21. For more information or to book tickets, please email or call 01835 824087. Mainstreet’s next book group meeting is on Wednesday July 20 and they are reading two thrillers, Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton and Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré– all welcome.