Review: Salt Lane

Salt Lane by William Shaw

35654063Series: DS Alexandra Cupidi
Genre: Mystery
Maturity Level: 5
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

I’m trying a lot of different mystery novels to see what kinds of things I like, and I discovered reading Salt Lane that crime is not my favorite sub-genre. It turns out that I am a lot less interested in the process of a police sergeant apprehending a murderer than a private detective.

First off, the Cupidi series is a spin-off of The Birdwatcher by Shaw, in which Sergeant Cupidi is a minor character. This series can definitely be read without reading The Birdwatcher, however I felt like there were minor references to the original book that would have made more sense had I read it.

The primary thing that made Salt Lane less fun for me than other mysteries I’ve read was how slowly the mystery unraveled itself. It wasn’t a grip-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of thing, but it wasn’t as if you could really play along either. You were kind of at the mercy of some other crime happening before you could find out anything else. It wasn’t even a CSI kind of deal where you’re dealing with DNA evidence. In fact, Cupidi rarely seemed to find any clues until someone else turned up dead.

I enjoyed reading a mystery about a single, working mom dealing with the same kinds of things all parents deal with. I wasn’t crazy about how she criticized her daughter as “weird” just because she liked bird watching. If ONLY my kids end up obsessed with something so harmless and healthy! But I could relate to her difficult relationship with her mom and her fear that she and her daughter would end up the same way. There was some good character development, but not so much that it distracted from the police work, or that I would call this in any way character-driven.

Salt Lane also dealt with the very timely issue of illegal immigration. I didn’t realize that it was as bad of a problem overseas as it is here in the states. Shaw really touched on how difficult it is for the immigrants being stuck in limbo once they get where they’re going. He acknowledged how impossible it is to know what to do, and how helpless that can make a person feel. And I thought he did a great job at making the illegal immigrants in his story out to be people, not just suspects or witnesses.

As far as the mystery goes, I very quickly caught on to what was going on. Maybe you are supposed to? The “culprit” in the end I admit surprised me, but the overall con was in no way shocking. The only shock was how they ever found anything, just stumbling around blindly.

Crime lovers will probably enjoy this one, but I don’t think you need to go out of your way to get your hands on it.

6 thoughts on “Review: Salt Lane

  1. I’m with you on preferring private detective to police in crime/mystery fiction. Having someone who is not bound by as many regulations or established procedures often allows for more variety in the plot. My favorite mystery/crime sub-genre is hardboiled detective stories from the 20’s-50’s (especially Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op & Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I also felt like the fact that she was police meant she couldn’t just focus on ONE case. There was constantly new stuff coming up. In this case it worked out because, shocker, they were all connected, but I just didn’t enjoy that as much.


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