The Malice of Waves – Mark Douglas-Home

The Malice of Waves Book Cover The Malice of Waves
Sea Detectives
Mark Douglas-Home
Penguin UK
28 Jun 2016

Five years ago, fourteen-year-old Max Wheeler disappeared from Priest's Island, an isolated but bleakly beautiful place on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the closeknit local community, there are no secrets, except what happened to Max. None of the police or private investigations since have shed any light on what happened the night he went missing, presumed dead.

But there is one man who is yet to take on the case: The Sea Detective.

Cal McGill is an oceanographer and unique investigator who uses his knowledge of tides, winds and currents to solve mysteries no-one else can.

However, Cal is an unwelcome stranger who must navigate the tensions between Max's inconsolable father, the broken family he has neglected, and the embittered locals, resentful after years of suspicion.

As Cal arrives, a violent storm approaches, threatening to completely cut off the island, with a possible murderer at large..

I came across this book “The Malice of Waves” by Mark Douglas-Home about Cal McGill, the “sea detective”, and found it was the third in the series. I’m always concerned about starting reading part way through a series however the premise was intriguing so I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. Five years ago a 14 year old boy has gone missing from a Hebridean island. His father has been obsessed by the disappearance.  He continues to suspect a closeknit community on the closest occupied island of concealing the truth. Cal McGill comes on to the scene in his role as an oceanographer. He seeks to find where a body may have ended up. I found the start held my attention and was entertaining – always assuming you find the idea of using a dead pig in the sea to try and work out where a human body may have gone.

The writing is easy to read and has a well written feel to it. The characters of both the investigators and the island community, emerge and feel fairly well rounded and interesting. In particular the character of Cal, somewhat understated, I thought was very good indeed. As with so many of the literary investigators he is a loner and, in Cal’s case, someone who is happier watching and trying to understand the sea rather than anything else. He also seems to be quite a good listener. The other “character”, which is very well worked and utilised, is the setting; evocative writing paints a good picture of windswept isolation. I do have one or two reservations about this story. I found the family of the boy who went missing, the Wheelers, less well developed sadly. I get the fact that the father is simply obsessed and overwhelmed by the disappearance of his son and that that is very much part of the story however the other siblings, three girls, did not really emerge as people until late in the book. The other reservation is over the character and storyline surrounding Stanley Pryke – this didn’t really work for me.  I’d prefer not to give anything away about the details of the story and anyway I enjoyed the book.

I intend to read more of Cal McGill who I found an interesting and fairly original character in a well written story.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review