Book Review: Black Coral by Andrew Mayne
Sloane McPherson of the UIU (Underwater Investigative Unit) is a police diver called into assist with recovering a body from a just-sunk car in Pond 65, haunt of Big Bill, a vast and ill-tempered alligator. By necessity, it’s a quick job, but while evading Big Bill, Sloane spots a sunken van. Something bothers her about it enough to push for the van’s recovery… and when four bodies are found in the back, Sloane can’t quite let the case go.
Soon enough, links start to appear to other cases, and it becomes apparent the UIU might be on the trail of a serial killer… one who’s been operating with impunity in the Everglades for thirty years. Of course the FBI come in to take over the case… but Sloan can’t quite put her finger on what’s nagging at her. Something’s not right, and she can’t just walk away.
Sloan’s a fascinating character and there are a host of intriguing supporting characters, from her maverick boss George to her treasure-hunting family. This is apparently the second book in the series, and I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a lot of character background, but I didn’t have any issue keeping up with the main storyline here as it’s a complete (and riveting) arc. Sloan’s personal life is just side colour.
I’ve visited the Everglades a couple of times and Mayne has really captured them here, the lushness and the menace, the wildness of them sometimes just metres away from civilization. Miami is here in all its glory; yachts worth hundreds of millions and trailer parks where sex offenders congregate. Sloan is fascinating because she moves just as comfortably in both places - which is to say, just as aware danger might come from the person right next to you.
I really enjoyed this. Sloan is hyper-competent but far from infallible, and aware she still has a great deal to learn about investigative work. This is a very different type of police procedural - I don’t think I’ve ever read one from the point of view of a police diver before - and I’m absolutely hooked. I’m going to go back and read the first in the series, and I’ll be looking out for the next one too. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.