Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes is a suspenseful traditional mystery set in England (available March 12, 2013).
Genevieve has finally escaped the stressful demands of her job and achieved her dream: to leave London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. But on the night of her boat-warming party the dream is shattered when a body washes up beside the boat, and Genevieve recognizes the victim.
As the sanctuary of the boatyard is threatened, and Genevieve’s life seems increasingly at risk, she learns the real cost of mixing business with pleasure.
Elizabeth Haynes’s Dark Tide is set in contemporary England, mostly at a marina full of houseboats, with flashbacks to the heroine Genevieve’s previous life in London. Having burned out on her high-powered sales job, she turns to pole dancing to make a lot of money quickly, while doing her best to ignore the more unsavory (and possibly illegal) aspects of the club where she works. She saves all her money so she can pursue a dream: buy a boat, fix it up so she can live there, and take time off from working. When the book opens, she’s in mid-renovation and preparing to host a boat-warming party that will mix her new friends from the marina and her old friends from London…and then, an old friend is murdered.
The novel is notable for lots of realistic, intriguing characters who are revealed a tiny bit at a time. What I liked most about the book was how Haynes contrasted the characters from the two important phases of Genevieve’s life. Her choice of friends reflects on where she is in her own life, as she decides who she wants to be. She’s in the process of breaking off from her old friends, even if she doesn’t quite realize it yet, but she still has ties to them. In particular, she passionately misses the mysterious Dylan.
From the back pocket of my jeans I took out a cell phone. I found the address book and the only number that was saved there: garland. That was all it said. It wasn’t even his name. It would be so easy to press the little green button now and call him. What would I say? Maybe I could just ask him if he wanted to come tonight. “Come to my party, Dylan. It’s just a few close friends. I’d love to see you.” What would he say? He’d be angry, shocked that I’d used the phone when he’d expressly told me not to. It was only there for one purpose, he’d told me. It was only for him to call me, and only when he was ready to make the pickup. Not before. If I ever had a call on it from another number, I wasn’t to answer. I closed my eyes for a moment, for a brief second allowing myself the indulgence of remembering him. Then I put the screen lock back on the phone so it didn’t accidentally dial any numbers, least of all his, and I shoved it in my pocket and made my way back to the cabin.
… People came and went in and out of your life in a transitory fashion, and it never really seemed to matter. There was always someone else to go out with, always an invitation to some party or gathering. So I had plenty of people I knew, and in London they would generally be called friends, or mates. But were they? Were they people you could call on in a crisis? Would they stay with you if you were ill, or in danger? Would they protect you, if you needed protecting? Dylan would.
Moving to Kent with her boat seems better suited to Genevieve’s desire to have steadier emotional support. Her new friends at the marina operate under a different social structure than the competitive young people she knew in London. The marina folk stick together and help each other even if there’s no major crisis. They provide a significant support system for Genevieve when a body is found washed up against the dock, and she continues to turn to them as her problems escalate.
If you like character-based mysteries that grow steadily more complex, definitely give Elizabeth Haynes’s work a try.
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Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War I-set Spice Brief, “Under Her Uniform,” is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.
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