Cal Mc Gill might well be called The Sea Detective, and it is indeed how former journalist turned thriller writer Mark Douglas-Home titled his first book in the series. The Malice of Waves is his third novel.
McGill has a vast knowledge of tides, winds and currents. He has written a PhD paper on measuring the effects of the ocean on flotsam deposited in it, including dead bodies. His very specialised expertise comes in useful when he is called to a remote Scottish island to determine whether the death of a 14 year-old boy, Max Wheeler, was the result of an accident or murder by person or persons unknown.
In the five years since the disappearance, neither police nor private inquiries have solved the mystery. Can McGill?
Max’s father, David, who technically owns the island, believes the villagers were responsible for his son’s death. Not unreasonably, the residents resent this – but they didn’t especially welcome Wheeler and his three daughters and they don’t welcome McGill or his special knowledge either.
Between them, the island community, within which there are feuds and problem relationships, and the dysfunctional Wheeler family, pose the investigator a number of seemingly insoluble problems. Everyone potentially involved has successfully hidden his or her tracks.
A violent storm (predicted, of course, by McColl), plus entry into the scene of a wildlife criminal illegally collecting birds’ eggs which are genetic freaks and therefore highly priced collectors’ items, add further complications to the plot.
Then, the body of |Max’s older sister is found on the beach and this time murder is not in doubt, though the identity of the killer is. Ultimately, McGill solves both mysteries, although the ending is far from a happy, albeit with hopeful signs for some of the characters.
This is a well constructed novel, with unusual elements for the genre, so probably a formula for success.