A Dark And Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
|A Dark And Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Lacey Flint is back in uniform and looking for a quiet life. But when she finds a floating body in the Thames she's back into the dark and dangerous dregs of crime investigation. Solid, page-turning crime, with a touch of humanity, a hint of suspense and more red herrings than have any right to be swimming in the Thames.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2014|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Lacey Flint. Lacey is soft and pretty; Flint is sharp and hard. Lacey Flint is all of those things.
She is also, now, a Constable in the Met's Marine Unit. Lacey had fought hard against whatever traumas lie in her past to get into the police force, and harder still to get into plain clothes. A couple of years as a DC were enough to make both her and her bosses think it was all way too much for her.
Not because she isn't sharp and hard. She is both of those things. But because she caught unlucky breaks. She caught the sour end of two vicious cases in rapid succession, both of which saw a lot of people dead, and in both of which she came far too close to being numbered among them.
Never a quitter, Flint was never going to go off and do something very much tamer, but she did feel that a stint back in uniform would be good for her mental health. A nice quiet beat along the river.
She can live alone on her houseboat in the creek, surrounded by new-found but very protective friends, and do a good job protecting and helping people in a way that isn't going to get her killed sooner rather than later.
Of course, this is Flint we're talking about here. She's a born detective.
When, on one of her early morning swims in the Thames she stumbles headlong into a body – that for various reasons doesn't appear to have just staggered in drunk one night – then obviously she's not going to just call it in and leave it to others to resolve.
To be fair, she can't 'just call it in'. Free-swimming in the Thames in central London is stupidly dangerous, and as a member of an elite squad that should know better, it would be enough to get her sacked. On the other hand she's not a total maverick… she isn't all gung-ho to just go investigate on her own.
There's a little conniving done, sufficient to get the report into official channels, without totally revealing how she came to find it.
Meanwhile, the man who might just be the love of her live, if only he'd let himself be, has gone AWOL. He's an undercover detective and this is the way his life works, but now even his official contacts don't know what's happened. Suspicions are that he might have gone native.
In another part of the Met not so very far away, DI Dana Tulloch is trying to get pregnant. Her girlfriend isn't totally sure it's a good idea, but she wants whatever Dana wants, and so it will happen. Dana has worked with Lacey Flint before… she knows there's something not quite right about her, but she also knows that the detective in her won't let go, so she brings her into the floating body investigation. As much to keep an eye on her one feels, as to help her out.
As with previous stories Bolton tells her tale by switching viewpoints. Vignettes of people around the fringes of the action, weaving her web from the outside inwards. Sometimes this works as a device, other times it doesn't. For me, Bolton has it nailed. This is crime fiction, so you know when you pick it up that all of these tales are linked. If you've read the previous books, you'll even have an idea how some of them are linked. I think the trick that Bolton pulls off is to keep the asides sharp and to the point, spending more time with the main protagonists. Also, she doesn't allow all of these viewpoints to be switches of voice. The narrative tone is constant, no matter who we're watching. As a result you don't feel a jarring whenever she slips over to watch some-one else – you're not expected to slip into a completely different world, just turn a corner or look the other way for a moment or two.
Among those other people are two girls, Nadia and Pari. One of them apparently freer than the other, both of them constrained and fearful.
And then there is the swimmer. Someone else swims in the Thames… and that swimmer has more than a touch of the Gollum about them, as they slip into dark places. And watch.
Among much else, in the water and in the dark, the Swimmer watches Lacey Flint.
In talking about the previous novel Like This Forever I suggested that Flint was becoming too traumatised and flaky to be allowed to stay on the force, and figured that she'd have to go free-lance if the character was to stay intact. I'm pleased that Bolton seems to have decided that's not what she wants for her protagonist. Slowly revealing more about the past, to explain Flint, she's also allowing Flint to come to terms with who she is now.
Let's be honest we like our fictional detectives to be slightly odd. Maybe there's something in us that likes to believe that normal, ordinary, well-adjusted people wouldn't be able to cope with the horrors and the risks. Or maybe there is something in the fact that slightly (only slightly) off-balance people do have a different way of looking at the world that helps make them good at solving puzzles and, therefore, crimes.
Whatever the answer to that one, I think we've also reached a point where we also know and understand more about how crime and policing really functions around us and we want that oddity tempered with plausibility.
I can't be the only person who watches some cops and thinks she'd never be allowed in the force, never mind make DS! There was a risk that Lacey Flint was going to stray into that category. The dark and twisted tide might have turned for her here, bringing her back into – not the mainstream, never that – but at least a channel that will allow her to be a rational, believable cop – one with her own way of doing things, but a way that might just about keep her promotable rather than sackable.
Bolton's depiction of the darker forgotten corners of London is as atmospheric as ever without a word wasted on description that could be better used for characterful dialogue or plot-driving action.
For at the end it is the nature of such books that they are all about plot. And the plot works. It holds together. Drifts in any manner of plausible direction are webbed tightly enough to be quickly pulled back to the centre. Crucially, there are a number of possible outcomes all of which would work. As the reader, you just have to figure out which might be most satisfying.
Good page-turning stuff.
If you're new to Flint's story we'd recommend catching up by checking out Dead Scared or Like This, For Ever - or for another take on the seedy side of capital life, we also enjoyed Frankie by Kevin Lewis
You can read more book reviews or buy A Dark And Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Dark And Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton at Amazon.com.
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