Knight, Alanna - 'The Seal King Murders'
This very fine story set in the year 1861, finds Detective Constable Jeremy Faro taking a paid week's leave of absence from his offices in the Edinburgh City Police to go to the Island of Orkney where he was born. His mission is to investigate on behalf of a former Detective Superintendent of Edinburgh Police, but with the full sanction of his superiors, the disappearance of an excise officer named Dave Claydon. Jeremy's widowed mother Mary Faro is a housekeeper to a rich Lord and his family who have their Scottish home in the Orkney Islands. Jeremy feels a bit awkward staying at the servant's lodge with his mother when she has her own cottage elsewhere on the island. After he gets settled in he starts investigating the background to the disappearance of the excise officer. He remembers that a lot of the simple ordinary people have a great believe in a superstition relating to the seals that are often seen around the shores of the island and the Seal King in particular. It is thought that the male or female seals may come ashore as mermaids or mermen and form relationships with humans, and as long as they are ashore for a year and a day they become fully human. A woman that Jeremy heard about, disappeared and then, after every one had searched all over for many months, she came back with no memory of what had happened to her and there was talk amongst the islanders that perhaps the sea had taken her and she had lived with the Seal King.
One night Jeremy was walking on the beach when he met the young eighteen-year-old daughter of his mother's boss who had come down from London to stay with her parents. She knew Jeremy was in the police and they had a long talk, whilst strolling together about her life in London and so on and time passed very quickly until they were interrupted by Jeremy's mother who came to announce to the young lady that her room was now ready; she continued her stroll and Jeremy went back with his mother to the house. The next day Jeremy was disturbed from his sleep by the local police who announced that he was the last person to see the young lady and that her cloak and petticoat were found on the beach. Her bed had not been slept in and to all intents an she had disappeared. Was she alive or dead, perhaps drowned?
The local police working on the assumption that the last person to see a deceased usually knows more than they may say give Jeremy quite a hard time until they apparently come to a decision. The father of the missing girl and her mother are frantic with worry and are pressing the police who are more used to dealing with missing sheep than events such as this and are equally nonplussed.
Without wishing to give anything away, Jeremy gives invaluable help to the police in clearing up all these matters in the very surprising conclusion to this very stunning story. The author has written more than 50 novels, two true crime books and several plays and is the Honorary President of the Edinburgh Writers' Club. The book is really gripping and her research is first rate and truly evocative of the 1860s and I found it intensely interesting and hope to read more about Detective Constable Jeremy Faro or her other two series characters Rose McQuinn and Tam Eildor. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England