If you enjoy a Scottish crime novel and haven’t come across Mark Douglas-Home, you’re in for a treat. Set on a fictional island in the Outer Hebrides, The Malice of Waves is about a cold case murder investigation.
The victim is Max Wheeler. Max disappeared from Priest’s Island five years previously. The 14-year old was camping on the island when he vanished. He is presumed murdered but his body has never been found. Consequently, every year, on the anniversary of the disappearance, Max’s father hires investigators to find out what happened.
David Wheeler is unpopular. The islanders dislike him because he is an outsider. He makes them feel like they are under suspicion and they resent that he purchased land in their community.
Dr Cal McGill is engaged by Wheeler because of his specialist knowledge of tides, winds and currents. Cal’s job is to try to find Max’s body by studying the coastline and sea.
Cal’s enquiries soon create tension. The local coffee shop becomes the focal point of the islanders’ resentment.
Bella and her niece Caitriona run the Deep Blue cafe. The business belongs to Caitriona since her parents died. Bella took over the running of the cafe and raised her niece and she is keen to see Caitriona settle down. Consequently, she helps Caitrona’s friend Ewan to make some additional cash hoping that it will set them up for the future. But Bella’s plans have unexpected consequences.
Meanwhile, Cal is an unwelcome stranger caught between Max’s father and the local community. To make matters even more tense, David Wheeler has a complicated relationship with his daughters Hannah and Chloe and a broken relationship with a third daughter, Joss.
As Cal’s investigation deepens, the island community’s secrets begin to unwind. But this is a story where plot and character are almost secondary to the setting itself. Douglas-Home’s writing brings the remote landscape to life in a strongly visual way that captures the changing moods of the ocean and landscape. If you love Scotland and enjoy a good Scottish crime novel, this an absorbing read. Highly recommended.
The Malice of Waves is the third title in the Sea Investigator series by Douglas-Home. The earlier titles in the series are The Sea Detective and The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea.
The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home is published by Penguin. [Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley]