Review - BLOOD, SALT, WATER, Denise Mina

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Denise Mina is one of those authors that you can always trust to spin a good yarn, and once in a while an absolute ripper. BLOOD, SALT, WATER is somewhere on this reader’s scale between really good and ripper.

Taut and pointed, her ability to skewer character’s personality traits - good and bad - is razor sharp as usual, with a beautiful turn of sarcasm when required. Putting those characters in a realistic small-town location in Scotland provides not just a wonderful sense of place, but an interesting juxtaposition of have’s and have-nots, whilst leaving more than enough room for some skewering of superficial assumptions.

The 5th book in the Alex Morrow series sees a complicated, small town plot revolve around one childhood friend who stayed, and others who have recently returned. Whilst there’s plenty happening in the small town, there is also a disappearance to be investigated. A particularly embarrassing one as a very high profile woman disappears in suspicious circumstances when she’s supposedly being shadowed by Morrow and her team. The “battle” for territory between the local cops and London is intensive as it turns out that recent legislation changes mean lucrative possibilities for the arresting force.

Needless to say there are a lot of ongoing threads in BLOOD, SALT, WATER that could be less convincing, or receive less attention in the hands of some authors. Mina, on the other hand, manages to keep the balance equally between all the characters and all the threads. Along the way she produces an excellent entry in a really good series, although you could definitely read this as a standalone (or as in my case, out of order in the series).

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DI Alex Morrow and her team have been shadowing a woman suspected of being involved in a large drug-smuggling and money-laundering operation. Roxanna Fuentecilla recently moved from London to Glasgow under suspicious circumstances, and Morrow's bosses want all the glory when she's finally arrested. But then Roxanna disappears. She's left her partner and her two children, and something about the situation, and the children's evasive attitude, leads Morrow to question what's really going on.

In the nearby picturesque town of Helensburgh, Iain Fraser is struggling to live with his overwhelming guilt. Under orders from the infamous Mark Barratt, he's just killed a woman, and now he's left with blood on his hands. Meanwhile, Miss Grierson, a former scout leader who left the sleepy seaside town decades ago, has returned. Allegedly she's back to sort out her recently deceased mother's estate, but Iain suspects she has an ulterior motive.

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