Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Blood, Salt, Water.
As a devoted fan of Denise Mina since The Garnethill Trilogy, I always anticipate the newest work of this talented crime fiction writer, balancing human nature and criminal activities. Blood, Salt, Water is the latest in the Detective Inspector Alex Morrow series, this one moving between Glasgow to the seaside community of Helensburg.
A wealthy businesswoman, Roxanne Fuentecilla, disappears from her home; her husband and children
are concerned but unwilling to cooperate when questioned.
As Morrow’s team tracks the missing woman’s most recent activities, the route leads to the remote village of Helensburg, the details of the woman’s life buried in secrecy, possibly including criminal enterprise. A sum of money is at play--over seven million dollars to be claimed by the agency that solves the crime--creating a competition between the various agencies, from the Met to Morrow’s team on behalf of Police Scotland. Of Spanish descent, Fuentecilla is suspected of setting up an illegally funded business in Scotland with the missing millions.
Her disappearance is closely tied to organized local criminals and a number of lucrative schemes. Morrow knows this landscape all too well.
Her half-brother, Danny McGrath, is currently incarcerated on her testimony, his absence creating a vacuum others are eager to fill, albeit with considerably more bloodshed: “People were dying because Danny McGrath was in a huff.”
The drama begins with two men on a mission in Helensburg. A woman’s brutal murder leaves one of them, a career criminal, convinced that his victim has somehow found her way inside him, where she settles like a stone, a constant reminder of his heinous deed. Unexpectedly unnerved, he is unable to settle after the violence he has perpetrated on this helpless woman, calmed only by the fact that his action is meant to pay the outstanding debt of another--an evil act to accomplish something good. Unable to dislodge his victim, he stumbles about, barely able to concentrate on matters at hand. He needs reassurance that the debt is indeed paid.
As the investigation winds toward seaside Helensburg and its unsuspecting residents, various characters become part of the tangled web begun with Roxanne’s disappearance, activities carried out by individuals both suspicious and innocent.
A deeper scheme at play is exposed as pieces fall into place for Morrow and her team. The investigation provides a good example of the evolution of cases, a compilation of random facts and particular individuals until a pattern emerges, defining a plan that is far more brutal and nefarious than first appears.
The many faces of the seaside community reveal the personality and history of Helensburg, from the proprietor of a local restaurant to a returning former resident come to claim her inheritance. The criminal element is well represented, from the bedeviled killer and his partner-in-crime to their elusive boss and a slick lawyer poised to facilitate their business deals. While gossip thrives, people are also concerned for the well-being of children
in a place where crime is allowed to flourish when everyone gets a cut--and where murder has struck at the heart of a community and left them speechless.
This colorful mix of people, places and events are Mina’s métier, their humanity, faults and missteps the stuff of stories, as random, ugly and provocative as life itself with all its false starts, detours, and breathless moments. Like Mina’s other novels, Blood, Salt, Water contains the heart of a place painfully rendered, the smudged fingerprints of humanity marking the passage of time spent and lives lost, new stories born every day.