FOR 23 years Kate and Flora Tolmie have lived as orphans, left parentless in the UK when their mother Christina disappeared from a French ferry port. Now adults, the sisters have never truly recovered from the trauma.
At roughly the same time, in an apparently unrelated incident teenager Ruth Jones went missing in south-eastern England. When Jones vanished it was assumed she had run away from a dysfunctional homelife with her drunken father, Mikey. Days later, when her body washed ashore she was found to have drowned.
On the opposite side of the English Channel, in the Netherlands Sarah Allison and her neighbour Lotte Rouhof have ‘adopted’ itinerant artist Olaf Haugen and given him a creative space of his own in their coastal hamlet. Their community is idyllic but for one sad construction: a beach hut erected to commemorate the discovery of a dead girl on the other-wise postcard-perfect stretch of sand.
Three watery mysteries, each connected in its own way to the sea – and now a new question has been raised. A suitcase once owned by Christina Tolmie has resurfaced, picked up by an English beachcomber decades earlier but then forgotten until after his death.
Oceanographer Dr Cal McGill is determined to trace the luggage’s movements to determine where and when it entered the Channel. Using his understanding of currents, tides and winds, McGill is uncannily skilled at pinpointing the routes taken by individual items held captive by the waves – be they simple flotsam and jetsam or, in the most gruesome of circumstances, human corpses.
McGill can’t afford to turn down this potentially lucrative job, however much he might want to walk away from his unsettling line of business.
The fourth release in Douglas-Home’s Sea Detective series, The Driftwood Girl combines the suspense of criminal investigation with the nebulous balance of relationships strained by grief.