This is my first encounter with Sharon Bolton's Lacey Flint, and I must remedy this neglect as soon as possible. The setting and the cast of extraordinary characters make the book completely unputdownable.
Lacey, a former D.C., due to horrific experiences in her last case, has left the CID to take up what she hopes will be a less strenuous position with the river police. She lives on a houseboat moored in Deptford Creek, a strange and rather sinister location, but she loves it. She has become close friends with the couple in the next-door boat, Ray and Eileen. Ray frequently swims in the Thames, despite the obvious hazards, and Lacey often accompanies him.
Lacey also has a sad emotional life. She is in love with Mark, who is an undercover police officer, currently working on a case which is so sensitive that it is impossible for him to meet her. Lacey's swimming excursions with Ray help to compensate a bit for this.
Early one morning she and Ray are out swimming when they find a body attached to a wooden piling. It is almost completely decomposed, but the subsequent forensic examination reveals that it is a young, slender woman, who is wrapped in a fine linen shroud.
In the ensuing days and weeks, more drowned young women are discovered, where the death has only occurred recently. They are all tall and slim, with long dark hair
and blue eyes. At the same time, Lacey and her colleagues discover that there is a flourishing immigrant smuggling operation going on in this stretch of the river.
The problem to solve is whether the immigrant smuggling and the murders are connected, and if so, why and how. Lacey works closely with her former boss, DI Dana Tulloch from Lewisham Police Station, and a number of her former male plain-clothes colleagues, who still don't really understand why she left them to join the river police.
On one of her excursions on the river, this time in her canoe, Lacey meets a “character straight out of a fairytale” — Thessa. She and her brother Alex live in a large and beautiful house on the river with a mooring. Alex is apparently a medical specialist of some kind and Thessa occupies herself with making herbal concoctions from the many plants in her garden. Lacey and Thessa become friends, and Lacey is fascinated by this strange woman. The subtle unwinding of these many mysteries make a fascinating and unusual story, with an unexpected ending.