Review: The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home

Monday 18 January 2016
Title: The Sea Detective
Author: Mark Douglas-Home
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 5th November 2015
Pages: 400
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon
Cal McGill is an Edinburgh-based oceanographer, environmentalist and one-of-a-kind investigator.

Using his knowledge of the waves - ocean currents, prevailing winds, shipping records - McGill can track where objects have come from, or where they've gone. It's a unique skill that can help solve all sorts of mysteries.

Such as when two severed feet wash up miles apart on two different islands off the coast of Scotland. Most strangely, forensic tests reveal that the feet belong to the same body.

As Cal McGill investigates, he unravels a web of corruption, exploitation and violence, which threatens many lives across the globe - very soon including his own...

If you are looking for an original, intriguing and utterly compelling book to read then you've found it with The Sea Detective. When I received this book and read the press release, I became very excited because when you read over one hundred crime fiction stories every year, you are constantly on the lookout for something that is different from everything else out there. It's also important to say that The Sea Detective goes beyond just being a simple crime story as it is also a thriller centred around a missing persons investigation.

Our main character in The Sea Detective is Cal McGill. The first thing that sets Cal apart from anybody else I've read about is his job as an oceanographer. I had no idea just what that entailed until I read this book. For example I didn't know it was possible to find out where items found in the ocean may have came from, by studying things such as ocean currents, prevailing winds and shipping records. Cal is extremely confident and competent in this area and it's clear that Mark Douglas-Home has carried out some brilliant research to make this story as authentic as possible. I even Googled further about oceanography when I finished this book because I was so fascinated by it.

There are a number of storylines running throughout The Sea Detective that are eventually brought together in a masterful way as Mark Douglas-Home delivers a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to this story. Two severed feet wash up miles apart on two different islands off the coast of Scotland. Forensics reveal that the feet belong to the same body. Cal investigates and soon unravels a web of corruption, exploitation and violence. Meanwhile a young woman by the name of Basanti turns up on Cal's doorstep wanting his help locating her friend Preeti. Basanti has a heartbreaking story to tell and the reader is privy to more information than Cal about what truly happened to Preeti, but still there are plenty of twists as this story begins to play out. As if that wasn't enough Cal is haunted by his grandfather's death at sea. This tragedy led to him becoming an oceanographer and as the book progresses, Cal finally starts to get the answers he has searched for his whole life.

The Sea Detective is a rich, atmospheric read that really pulls you into the heart of the drama and never lets you go until the end. You get a real sense of the setting, and can almost feel the bitter cold winds as you read and follow Cal on his journey. He clearly has a damaged past, and is desperate for answers about his grandfather's death. Cal reminded me of Tim Weaver's missing persons investigator David Raker. Given Cal's personal life and the fact he has few friends and family, he's in a place where he can put other people first, and where he puts his own life in danger because he doesn't have that conventional family life. Basanti's story is hard-hitting and extremely emotional. Mark brings all of the characters we meet to life on the page and it's easy to imagine them as real people and I finished the story knowing that Basanti's story is probably true of many young women across the world and that means that this isn't a story I'll be forgetting in a hurry.

The Sea Detective was a thoroughly enjoyable read and is a book I have no hesitation in recommending. Thankfully I have the second in the series, The Woman Who Walked into the Sea, waiting to be read and there will be a review of that sequel on the blog very soon. 


  1. I don't think I saw The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea on NetGalley - bugger! I knew there was such a job as a couple of fishing boats have gone down near here and it's their job to locate as quickly as possible the best place to search so they can pull it up and see what happened. I think it's a fascinating job, but you probably need to be a maths genius so don't think it's for me!

  2. And I meant to say - I must read Tim Weaver's David Taker books as everyone (and I mean everyone) raves about them! What else? Oh yes, it's great to have you back mate! Hope life's good. And if you ever fancy a crime goss, DM me. Hey we could be the new Nicci French Shaun...


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