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Sunday, 7 October 2018

‘Dark Waters’ by Mary-Jane Riley

Published by Killer Reads/Harper Collins,
31 May 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-00-828511-1(PB

This is the third in this Norfolk-set series featuring journalist Alex Devlin who works for the local newspaper, The Post. When she hears that two men have been found dead in a boat on the Norfolk Broads and wondering if there is a possible story she goes off to investigate. The police refuse to commit themselves as to the cause of death but when Alex discovers that one of the dead men is Derek Daley, a well-known magazine proprietor, her interest increases. A bit of journalistic sleuthing reveals that the other man was Roger Fleet, not a name known to Alex. Then it appears that the deaths were either accident or suicide – if the latter that could well be a story and Alex’s boss Bud Evans tells her to find out more. She begins with finding out where Roger Evans had been living, and from his sister that it was unlikely that Roger had taken his own life although a visit to a local Catholic institution where Roger had spent some time reveals to Alex that he was deeply troubled.  
Alex continues her investigations and is drawn into the world of suicide websites – is that a lead to the deaths of Derek and Roger; or is it a mis-lead?  Whatever the truth, the topic of suicide websites and the way in which people are positively encouraged to take their own lives is one that Alex cares about deeply. But at the same time there are obstacles in the way of Alex’s search. The police repeatedly warn her off, while at the same time she is deeply worried about her father who is increasingly afflicted by dementia and her mother is finding it more and more difficult to cope. And her sister Sasha who has been confined in a mental institution for horrific murders has been released and is supposed to be coming to live with Alex but hasn’t turned up. More worrying still, Alex’s beloved son Gus, who has been staying with his birth father, is also coming home – but where is he? And then, Alex’s own inquiries and a parallel narrative from 30 years ago focussing on a group of young people in their first year at Cambridge indicate that her own family may be involved. And not just her family. Alex is not completely without people on her side such as her old friend Lin and the charming but essentially unreadable Heath, a fellow-reporter on The Post. Can they be relied on? And is her former lover, the undercover policeman Malone who came and went and whom she had thought had finally have gone for good, really hovering like a shadow on the edges of her investigation?

This story will appeal especially to readers who like an intricate plot where the protagonist has to thread her way through the tangled undergrowth of past and present and through the conflicting demands of family loyalties and the quest for the truth.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her third book, set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex.  Dark Waters, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in March 2018.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

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