Rowson, Pauline - 'Footsteps on the Shore'
This excellent police procedural is the sixth mystery in this particular series by Pauline Rowson. It opens with Inspector Andy Horton coming into his office one morning, furiously complaining that he has discovered that someone has defaced his Harley Davidson motorbike during the night. Then later, his superior, Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine Bliss, informs him that a Luke Felton is missing. Felton was imprisoned for the killing by strangulation of a local girl in 1997. He was recently released on license, something which the relations of the dead girl were opposed to, but they were over-ruled. Before he was imprisoned he was a heroin addict, but he is supposedly clean of drugs now. He was given a fresh job and seemed to be making a new start but has suddenly disappeared.
Horton and Sergeant Cantelli, his assistant, are ordered to investigate and to try to locate him as soon as possible. This they start to do by interviewing all whom he came in contact with, to get as much background on Felton as possible. Then after checking out several lines of enquiry they are advised that a dead body has been located in Portsmouth Harbour. Could this be Felton? Felton has been missing for several days by now and the body has been in sea-water for some time and is misshapen and unidentifiable because of the effect of the sea-water. Another line of enquiry Horton is checking out is meeting a man named Rookley who is a junkie, as Horton suspects that Felton may have lapsed back into his past habits.
Horton's wife left him some time ago and their daughter has been sent away to a boarding school. Horton lost his family home in the separation and has been living for some time on a house-boat owned by a friend who is abroad. This friend is due back in a couple of months and consequently, Horton has been looking for another boat to live on. He is interested in a particular one and goes to see it and is impressed but needs to think over his finances before making an offer. Unfortunately, the following day he is called to the scene of the discovery of another dead body who just happens to be the woman who showed him the boat the previous day!
The author is very clever in her manipulation of the plot and the red herrings she suggests, that can send your mind racing in one direction until perhaps Andy Horton sees something accidentally, which triggers a different line of enquiry for him and you momentarily forget your earlier conclusions. There are a multiplicity of characters both in the police, victims and potential killers which I found a little confusing at times but it all turned out all right in the end. I must admit though, I had no idea who the killer was until the end and it was a big surprise.
This book reminded me in one aspect, of the mysteries by RD Wingfield, creator of Jack Frost. In the Frost books, which the TV series is only fleetingly similar to, there are a huge amount of story lines, much like in FOOTSTEPS ON THE SHORE, and you are amazed how Pauline Rowson's character Horton can manage to isolate in his mind all the different elements of the story: the damage to his motor bike, the crusty senior officer, the missing ex-convict, the discovery of the dead bodies - but he eventually does. This police procedural was a very interesting read, with all the interaction between the different detectives. The tight plotting was impressive and makes me want to look out for the further books by this author. A very enjoyable read.
Terry Halligan, England