DS Alexandra Cupidi can’t get the image of a dead woman out of her head so when the body of a man is discovered, drowned in a slurry pit, she fears that there could be a connection. The man, it is determined, was a fruit picker from North Africa and soon the detective is investigating immigrants in the local area and the lives they are living. With a killer out there, and the local people not too keen on answering her questions, Alex faces an uphill and dangerous battle to find out what is going on by the Kent coastline.
I had heard great things about William Shaw but had never got round to reading any of his books. As I was due to attend an ‘Evening with…’ event where he was sharing the billing with the wonderful Elly Griffiths, I decided to bump Salt Lane up my TBR list and I am so glad I did!
Alexandra Cupidi is a fascinating character and I can see why William Shaw decided to write a series around her. (She appears in another book, The Birdwatcher, but it is not essential to have read this prior to Salt Lane). After leaving her previous post under a bit of a cloud, she has found herself in Dungeness, its bleakness a direct contrast to what she was used to in the Met. In Alex, we see a woman at odds with her mother whilst experiencing a less than perfect relationship with her daughter. Alex’s daughter, Zoe, is one of the many strengths in this book. Not exactly your typical teenager, it was refreshing to see a young character written in such a positive way.
Salt Lane deals with the very topical issue of immigration, in particular those arriving into the country illegally and the conditions in which they have to live their lives. In a climate where this is such a divisive issue, the author paints a very sympathetic picture of their plight, highlighting the dangers faced by these people who are just trying to have the chance of a better life. The story is, at times, incredibly emotive, as we read about these ‘hidden’ people, unable to work legally and so are reliant upon jobs that are tantamount to modern day slavery. The fate of one of these characters, in particular, had a huge impact on me and really brought home how vulnerable they were.
This is a fantastic start to a new series, and I am already looking forward to reading its follow-up, Deadland. Incidentally, William Shaw’s event with Elly Griffiths was superb and if you get the chance to attend something similar, I highly recommend it!