Hayder’s métier is the edgy thriller, characters DC Jack Caffrey of Bristol’s Major Crimes Investigative Unit and Flea Marley of the Underwater Search Unit reunited in an eerie tale of carjacking turned ominous, a child in the backseat of the stolen car. A frantic mother watches her vehicle speed away knowing her most precious cargo is still inside. Caffrey realizes he only has a limited amount of time before the odds turn against rescue. With Flea’s dive team filling in on the search, Caffrey engages Bristol’s MCIU, following tried and true procedure until a bizarre plot twist stands logic on its head - and the fate of eleven-year-old Martha Bradley becomes just another statistic.
Hayder sets the scene for a massive search, a high-pressure situation in which events from the previous novel, Skin, bring Sergeant Marley and her dive team back into Caffrey’s orbit. Though this relationship is at an impasse due to circumstances Caffrey finds unacceptable, Marley’s unit is included by necessity, the search area expanded to include the murky landscape of Flea’s expertise: a network of waterways and tunnels subject to erosion and collapse. Yet it is just such a place that may harbor the body of the missing girl.
Flea and Jack are intuitively, albeit separately, following similar instincts in locating the missing child, Flea determined to prove that her team still has what it takes to work beside the big dogs. Yet the culprit behind the unfolding terror is unpredictable and cunning, outwitting even Caffrey’s team’s best efforts. While Marley’s part in the novel is arguably tangential, it is critical to the resolution of the child’s welfare, the familiar underwater terrain Flea navigates darkly menacing yet compelling: “This was her death. This was how it was going to end.”
Beyond the continuing non-relationship between Marley and Caffrey, assorted characters add texture to the drama: the agony of a mother whose child is missing; Jack’s clandestine meetings with “The Walking Man,” who camps rough but offers a willing ear; methodical detectives looking for a key to break the case; and the inexorable passage of time for a doomed little girl. That the lives of innocents are at stake only serves to ratchet up the emotional limbo of victim’s families, the face of evil obscured by an overworked force frustrated by a lack of progress. Always a little over the top, Hayder pushes the boundaries of expectations and hasn’t disappointed yet.