Rowson, Pauline - 'Blood on the Sand'
This excellent police procedural is the seventh mystery by Pauline Rowson and opens with Inspector Andy Horton enjoying a long overdue two-week holiday on the Isle of Wight. He is stationed in the Portsmouth CID, quite nearby and he has had his fair share of on the job troubles in the last couple of years. It is the end of the second week and unfortunately Andy's peace and tranquillity is disturbed at about 8am one morning whilst he is out enjoying a walk, across an abandoned golf course. He sees a clearly distraught girl who has just discovered a rotting corpse. Andy telephones the details into the CID and soon detectives and a SOCA team arrive.
It turns out that the girl is the sister of the dead man, who has been deceased for several days. She is psychic and claims she was searching for her missing brother and "felt" psychically where his location would be. The other police are doubtful about her story even though Horton feels he believes her. There is a more senior detective, DI Birch, at the scene of crime, who has a history of antagonism towards Horton and is deeply suspicious of his motives for being at the scene, but believes that the girl is a mentally deranged killer. The girl is taken to hospital for treatment but soon absconds and with the police after her she disappears, and with other deaths occurring she becomes a major suspect.
As soon as it becomes clear that the deceased man was on a top level environment project for the European Commission, Horton's boss Superintendent Andrew Uckfield, urges him to go undercover. His job is to bring to light the killer, but soon there are other deaths and he starts to uncover a deep mesh of conspiracy that stretches back decades. The relationships of all the different people that Andy discovers with the help of sympathetic colleagues in his unit, make the unravelling of the plot and discovery of the killer very difficult. It is a battle right up to the last page. There is a back story concerning Andy's relationship with his ex-wife and daughter and his colleagues and superiors which is covered in depth in earlier books but is briefly detailed here so that one doesn't need to have read the previous titles to enjoy this one.
The author is very clever in her manipulation of the plot and the red herrings she suggests, that send your mind racing in one direction until perhaps Andy sees a photo accidentally, which triggers a different line of enquiry for him and you momentarily forget your earlier conclusions. There are a multiplicity of characters both in the police, victims and potential killers which I found a little confusing but it all turned out all right in the end. I must admit though, I had no idea who the killer was until the end and it was a big surprise.
This book reminded me of the mysteries by Graham Hurley, which are also centred around Portsmouth with his detective DI Faraday, but that is their only similarity. Pauline Rowson emphasises the marine aspect in her novels, her hero Andy Horton lives on a boat and is always going back and forward over the Solent, whereas Hurley's detective is more involved in metropolitan Portsmouth. But it was very interesting reading a police procedural again with all the interaction between the different detectives and the very tight plotting was very impressive and make me want to look out for further books by this author. A very enjoyable read.
Terry Halligan, England