Cal McGill, with his aptly named business Flotsam and Jetsom Investigations, is an expert on ocean currents and other influencing factors to the point that he can identify where a body (or anything else) which has washed ashore originated from and, as importantly, where it could not have come from. To that end he is employed here on several investigations including some severed feet appearing randomly on European beaches and a heartbreaking search for the truth about what happened to an unidentified young girl whose body washed ashore some years earlier. He is also determined to uncover the truth of his grandfather’s death which occurred during the second world war.
When I am perusing the best seller shelves at my local chain store I often think the only thing that matters in getting a book published these days is having an interesting premise. Whether or not you can follow up with characters, storyline and interesting themes seems irrelevant but happily THE SEA DETECTIVE delivers all of those in addition to its unique premise. It’s a delightful read.
When we’re introduced to Cal he is worrying that he has no escape route from some nefarious night time activity in which he is engaged. The commentary manages to be both suspenseful and funny and there’s genuine surprise when we learn exactly what Cal was doing. This quickly establishes Cal as an interesting character – intelligent, committed, practical and droll – and he only grows more so as we learn more about him. Other equally well drawn characters abound including a boorish Detective Inspector, a terrified young Indian girl who has escaped from horrendous abuse and an intelligent but not physically beautiful policewoman whose boss (the aforementioned DI) is far too narrow-minded to take advantage of her skills.
They play out their roles in a complex but very satisfying storyline that weaves many elements together and keeps the reader (well this one at least) thoroughly gripped throughout. There are some genuinely fascinating topics raised in the book, an exploration of the alarming fate that awaits many Bedia girls in India for example, but any information about them is imparted lightly and credibly by the characters with the author’s voice entirely absent. Of course this should always be the case but often isn’t. I imagine Douglas-Home’s background in newspapers plays some part in enabling him to write readably, with a nice mix of depth and pace.
In short this is a terrific read that entertains, engages and informs. There is even a fabulous sense of place, particularly the remote Scottish island that is Cal’s ancestral home. Highly recommended.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Sandstone Press 
Length 280 pages
Book Series standalone?
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