The Woman Who Walked into the Sea by Mark Douglas-Home

Earlier this year I read and loved The Sea Detective, the first Cal McGill book. Cal is an oceanographer using his skills in tracking human bodies and sea-borne objects. So I was really looking forward to reading the second book, The Woman Who Walked into the Sea. Maybe my expectations were too high because I was a bit disappointed – that’s not to say I didn’t like it because I did, but it lacked the pace and complexity of the first book and just didn’t grip my imagination in the same way. Cal is really a secondary character and there is very little sea detection in the story.

Set in an imaginary coastal village of Poltown in the north of Scotland, the story revolves around the main character,Violet who had been abandoned as a new-born baby. An anonymous letter to a social worker reveals that her mother, Megan Bates, had last been seen walking into the sea. Her body had never been found and it had been assumed after her bag and hat had drifted ashore that she had drowned herself. Cal helps Violet with details of the tides and currents which convinces Megan had not committed suicide. She is determined to discover what had happened.

I liked the mystery surrounding Megan and the local people, most of whom have problems/secrets and then there is the ‘local’ mafia and a controversial wind farm proposal. But the appeal of The Sea Detective for me was not just the detective elements but Cal himself and his expertise in the marine environment, the mystery of how the ocean currents and wind speeds affect where things get washed ashore and tracking back to find where they originated.  And I thought this second book was unevenly paced, the action slowed down by long descriptive passages so that the suspense that had been built up drained away and my attention drifted.

So, even though I liked this book, I don’t think it quite lived up to The Sea Detective. There is a third book, The Malice of Waves and I hope that the focus is more on Cal and his sea detective work.

Reading Challenges: Read Scotland 2016 ‘“ by a Scottish author and set in Scotland.

12 thoughts on “The Woman Who Walked into the Sea by Mark Douglas-Home

  1. I like the way we all have different reactions to books. You thought this was not quite as good as book 1, I thought it was ever so slightly better. Each to his own as they say. I just know I’m really looking forward to reading book 3. I think it’ll have to wait until the autumn though, when things are quieter.


    1. Yes, I noticed you gave it 5 stars on Goodreads! Sometimes I think my reaction depends to a certain extent on whatever I’d just been reading – which for this book was The Sunne in Splendour, which I thought was so good. I’m looking forward to reading book 3 too – but have quite a few other books stacking up to read first.:)


  2. Oh, that’s a pity! But the second book is often tricky – it’s one of the reasons I don’t mind jumping into series in the middle rather than starting at the beginning. I have The Malice of Waves coming up at some point soonish, so I hope it’s a return to form – for both our sakes! 🙂


  3. I think both books sound fascinating and a really different approach to a mystery/detective story.

    I know I would love reading about “the mystery of how the ocean currents and wind speeds affect where things get washed ashore and tracking back to find where they originated.”

    Now I have another couple of books for that groaning TBR shelf.


  4. Margaret, I agree with you! I was a little disappointed that Cal played such a small part in the story. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the book as I did like it. Just wish Cal had been the main character.


  5. Sorry to hear you didn’t like this one quite as much as the first, Margaret. I’ve had that happen to me, too, with second books. Still, the setting really sounds fascinating, and I do like the past/present connection.


  6. Yesterday, I finished listening to The Sea Detective. (I’m quite sure I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it, but audio was the only form I could get the book without actually buying it.)

    That aside, I actually did wonder if the next book would be about Helen Jamieson, or Cal McGill. And if Cal, what would fill the book now that the mystery of his grandfather’s death was solved?

    I see I wasn’t too far off the mark. I’ll have to decide whether to continue this series. Thanks for the review!


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