Monday 14 March 2016

Two books about the sea

Two books set on or around the sea today. I didn't plan to read two sea themed books in a row, it just happened... as it does sometimes. 'Serendipity' I think they call it... given my love of the sea and books about it. Anyhow, with out further ado - and rabbiting on - the first book is Dead in the Water by Dana Stabenow, book three in her Kate Shugak series.

Kate is crewing on an Alaskan crabber, the Avilda, having been placed there by Jack Morgan, her investigative boss and also her lover. Two men went missing off the trawler when they left it to go ashore on an island in the Bering Sea. The Aleutian chain is remote with some of the wildest and most unpredictable weather on the planet. Not somewhere to get stranded and the men were given up for lost, rather too easily in Jack's opinion, by the captain of the Avilda. The families of the missing men naturally want to know what happened and Kate is there, undercover, to find an answer to that question. Kate realises only too well that her life is very much in jeopardy here and not only because the work is exhausting and extremely dangerous. There are other forces at work and she must use every bit of her ingenuity to solve this mystery and to stay alive.

Wow, talk about a sense of place. I've read about The Aleutian Islands before but never quite in this manner. During the first chapter the reader is utterly transported to a trawler, in the middle of a storm, off that chain of islands, and it's rivetting. This is why I love to read crime books that are set around the world... for me it's another method of armchair travelling, every bit as effective as reading non-fiction travel writing. Fantastic. I learnt about fishing in the Bering Sea and how merciless it can be for the men who do it. I learnt some of the history of the Native American Aleuts - how they were moved off various islands during the war and so on. (I would be interested in finding out more about that.) And all the while enjoying an excellent murder mystery story. That aspect kept me guessing all the way through and the danger Kate was in throughout the book was real edge of the seat stuff. What more could you possibly want from a murder mystery? Brilliant. So glad I went back to this series.

Next up is The Woman who Walked into the Sea by Mark Douglas-Home, book two in his 'Sea Detective' series.

Single mother, Violet Wells, was adopted as a baby and has no idea who her parents were. A solicitor from Inverness brings her an anonymous note he's received, telling her that she had been left, as a newborn baby, at a hospital in Inverness and that her mother's name was Megan Bates. And thus begins a long journey of discovery for Violet. She travels to the town of Poltown near Ullapool on the western coast of Scotland. She soon discovers that her father was William Ritchie, married owner of the local 'big house', with whom her mother had had an affair. She also comes into contact with the elderly Mrs. Anderson who had been the Ritchie's's housekeeper for many years. What does she know? The other person she comes across is Cal McGill, an oceanographer, now known as the Sea Detective after being connected with various criminal investigations connected to the sea. Violet has been led to believe that her mother committed suicide by walking into the sea after the father of her baby had abandoned her. But is that the truth? Many people know more than they will admit to and discovering 'the truth' turns out to be more dangerous than either Violet or Cal had anticipated.

Goodness, what a brilliant series this is. (I say 'series', so far there are only two books and I can't discover whether book three is actually out yet... possibly this May?) I thought the first book, The Sea Detective was really excellent but, if anything, I think this one was even better. Book one had a lot of threads going on and you had to keep your wits about you to keep up. Not so this one, which was all about Violet Wells and her search for the truth about what happened to her mother. The story is full of family secrets and loaded with some very odd characters indeed. People are not what they seem and it's intriguing and compulsive reading. Add to that the setting of the coastline of Wester Ross and you have the perfect book for me. We saw a bit of that area in 2014 and I fell head over heals for the sheer beauty and grandeur of the area. It's a character in the book as much as any of the people and is portrayed so well, no reader could fail to be transported to the west coast of Scotland while reading it. I literally cannot wait for the third book to come out. I love, love, love this series... what a terrific writer Mark Douglas-Home is and I'm so happy to have discovered his writing.

And just to finish, a couple of photos I took in 2014 of the area around Ullapool from this post.



DesLily said...

always love your pictures!!!.. well you started the year off in a sprint to the finish and you aren't letting up!!.. 2 more series!! woot! lol

Kay said...

What gorgeous photos! Truly. So glad that the second book in Mark Douglas-Home's series is good. I have the first one that I bought, maybe based on your review? Someone's review. Anyway, I'll enjoy it before long I'm sure and also look forward to this one. As to the Kate Shugak series and this particular book - I can remember reading this one and loving it. That was before there were all those reality shows about Alaskan fishing (do you guys have those available to watch?). I thought about Kate and Dana Stabenow when I watched a few episodes, but they made me fairly seasick just to watch the camera wandering around. And what I know about Alaska has mostly been because of this series. I've never visited, at least not yet. Maybe one day.

BooksPlease said...

I'm glad that the Kate Shugak series continues to be good. I've borrowed the 2nd and 4th books from the library (I have to read them yet) - and hope the 3rd will be available soon! I haven't read any of Mark Douglas-Home's books - as you think they are brilliant and compulsive reading I think I'd like them too.

Cath said...

Thanks, Pat. That holiday in Scotland in 2014 was like a holiday of a lifetime for me. Always wanted to go to Scotland and it didn't disappoint when I got there.

Kay: Thanks, such a beautiful area is very easy to photograph. :-)

I don't think you can have bought the MD-H book based on my review as I only read it a few weeks ago. I know from Goodreads that Peggy read it so perhaps it was her review.

Oh yes, we get those Alaskan fishing shows over here and I've seen a few of them. So I could easily imagine the opening scenes in this book. Like you I'd love to go there one day. In the meantime I have to reply on the internet for beautiful pictures.

Margaret: I hope you enjoy the Kate Shugak books when you get to them. Based on the fact that we have quite similar tastes in crime novels then I suspect you would like the Sea Detective books... especially book two I think.

Anonymous said...

I give The Sea Detective an A-plus. I have the second book, but to my
chagrin, haven't yet read it.

However, I checked Douglas-Home's website and Amazon and there is a
third book out with this detective, called "The Malice of Waves."
Read about it at Amazon and at the writer's website or publisher's.

Looks good to me.

TracyK said...

Both of these sound very good. I have the first Kate Shugak book, and have had it for years and never read it. Got to do that. I did read The Sea Detective and my husband has The Woman who Walked into the Sea, so I will get to that one. Glad that you are liking both series so well.

Cath said...

Kathy: I think you'll enjoy the second book as much as the first.

Yes, I think it is out but there seems to be some confusion about it, Amazon and Fantastic Fiction saying two different things and my library certainly doesn't have book three yet. I shall wait a month or two to see whether my library gets it.

Tracy: I think the moral with the Kate Shugak series is, don't judge the series by the first book. I've read three now and book two and three were, imo anyway, better than book one.

I think you'll like The Woman Who Walked into the Sea when you get to it.

Judith said...

I'm glad to hear that you think the Kate Shugak series get better. I liked the first when I read it several years ago, but never continued. I definitely will now, and book three looks very good--love those wild Aleutian islands!

And I'm so glad to know about The Woman Who Walked to the Sea. I'll add it to my list.


Peggy Ann said...

I can't wait to get to The Woman Who Walked into the Sea now after that fantastic review! I need to get it read before the new one comes out!

Cath said...

Judith: Oh yes, they definitely get better. I'm regretting not carrying on a few years ago but now have some good books to read this year, so that's fine.

The Sea Detective series by Mark Douglas-Home is my discovery of the year.

Peggy: You won't be disappointed by The Woman Who Walked into the Sea... especially given how much you love Scotland.