Police Procedural THE SHADOW MAN
February 4, 2021

Book Review

Black Coral

Andrew Mayne

Andrew Mayne is back with another police procedural that will have the reader thinking outside the box (as well as off land). With his Underwater Investigation Unit, Mayne utilizes the world of police work under the water with Sloan McPherson as lead diver.

In Black Coral, the discovery of four teens from decades ago opens old wounds about their trip to a concert and the potential trouble they encountered while partying one night. Mayne keeps things crisp and will have readers plunging in for more by the final pages. Recommended to those who like unique takes on crime fighting down in Southern Florida.

Sloan McPherson quite enjoys her work in Southern Florida with the Underwater Investigation Unit (UIU), a group slapped together with the governor’s blessing a while back. She trolls under the surface of the water when the police cannot properly do the work on land. While diving down to help remove victims from a car that flew into the water, McPherson comes across a van that no one knew existed. She helps extricate it and bring it to the surface, but must be wary of the countless alligators that flock to the area, basking in the warmer waters and ready to feast on flesh of any sort.

Once some of the preliminary forensics are complete, the UIU learns that the occupants of the van were four teens who went missing over thirty years before. All were presumed to have run away, though their families had come to terms with their likely deaths. Analysis of the two girls in the van shows that they were dressed with their underwear inside out, leaving some to believe that there may have been some sexual assaults that occurred before the van flew into the water.

While McPherson and her new partner try to work through what they know, they are saddled with a new and more glitzy case. It would seem someone is targeting some of the larger yachts in the marina and stealing from their when the owners are asleep or otherwise engaged. McPherson calls this a silly ‘rich crime’ and wants to focus her attention on the grittier one that includes the dead kids. However, she will have to learn how to manage both, at least for the time being.

After some sleuthing leads to the discovery of a recent couple going missing, the case takes a significant turn. Further probing leads to the discovering of a large cage full of bones, surely bodies that were left deep in the water after a slew of killings. It’s a serial murder investigation and the UIU is elbowed out of the way. However, Sloan McPherson is not one to let things go too easily. Her independent explorations into what they know opens new and disturbing pathways that might explain a horrible new angle and a specific penchant that the ‘Swamp Killer’ may have. This case will chill anyone to the bone!

While my knowledge of Andrew Mayne’s work rests solely with the debut in the UIU series, I was hooked from the opening pages. I am always on the lookout for new and interesting perspectives when it comes to police procedurals, Mayne uses this angle effectively and keeps his readers hooked on the case throughout, offering them one tidbits of action both above and below the waterline.

Sloan McPherson emerges as a strong protagonist again, keeping herself busy with work while also trying to remain a member of her family. The mother of a tween girl, Sloan has come to realize that her daughter is not so little anymore, and the lure of boys will soon be a worry that must be addressed. Professionally, she is gritty and wants to be always in the driver’s seat. Her fearlessness shows repeatedly, both when chasing down leads and interaction with the reptile population while diving for clues. She’s got lots going for her and I quite enjoy how Mayne has crafted her up to this point.

A cast of strong supporting characters keeps the story moving well and does not distract from the plot. Mayne uses his characters to push the narrative along and allows the reader to choose a few people to follow throughout the story. Delving into the dark world of serial killers and pedophiles, Mayne must craft his characters well as he ensures the reader feels the full impact of what is going on.

As with the series debut, this book moved along well and never lost its momentum. With a great plot and strong narrative, Mayne pulls the reader in from the opening pages and never lets up. He develops the plot well, with his strong dialogue and uses shorter chapters to keep the flow throughout. While I know little about diving, Mayne bridged that gap effectively for me and kept things easy to comprehend for the layperson. I am eager to see what is to come, as the third novel in the series was just announced. It’s sure to be just as captivating as this one!

Kudos, Mr. Mayne, for another winner. I will have to check out some of your other series to get a full feel for your work. You have a fan in me, and a curious one at that.

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