Dark Water – Robert Bryndza

“Beneath the water the body sank rapidly. She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched.  From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.   The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago.  As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker.  A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica.  Erika soon realises this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on.  Is the suspect someone close to home?  Someone is keeping secrets. Someone who doesn’t want this case solved.  And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.”

This book opens with a prologue in 1990, a body is dumped into the water of an old quarry, weighed down, never to be found.  Fast forward to present day where a police team, headed up by DCI Foster, are using divers in the same quarry to search for a container of drugs.  As well as finding the massive batch of heroin, the divers come across another suspicious item, which we soon discover to be the skeletal remains of a child.  When these remains are identified as Jessica Collins, a seven-year old girl who disappeared on the way to her friend’s party never to be seen again, DCI Erika Foster is assigned the high-profile case.  The previous DCI on the notorious case suffered a well documented public breakdown, as every lead and suspect they had proved to be a dead-end.  Now with Erika on the re-opened case, the alcoholic burnt out ex-policewoman has a new lease for life, and is determined to help Erika solve the mystery, and atone for past mistakes.  Jessica Collins is the Madeline McCann of the 90s.  A blonde haired, middle class young girl, just seems to vanish into thin air, only metres away from her affluent parents.  Can Erika and her team bring those responsible for Jessica’s death to justice, or will she follow in the footsteps of  former DCI, Amanda Baker, and be pushed into oblivion?

This is the third book in the Erika Foster series, and Robert Bryndza’s writing is getting much better.  This compelling story kept me engrossed from the first couple of pages.  With the story being a “cold case” spanning over three decades I was worried the pace would be slow, with little excitement, but this was not the case.  Foster is like a dog with a bone, stubborn and unwilling to let go of the smallest detail, which makes her so perfect to be assigned to cold cases.  This personality trait makes her irritable in previous books, but with this one it just seems to work.  This book tackles some sensitive issues, the murder of a child, paedophilia, loss and grief, but the author handles this well.  There are no graphic scenes, just enough alluded, to cause your heart to ache.  There is a consistent air of suspense throughout that compels you to keep reading as you pull away yet another layer of the story.  The twist at the end I could feel slowly burning from about halfway through the book, yet it still came as a surprise.

I would like to say a special well done to Robert Bryndza who managed to give me the best laugh out loud moment of the year so far.  I was chuckling away for a good five minutes, it’s great to have some light-hearted fun to take the mind off such serious subjects.

This was such a sad, poignant story, but the writer delivered it like a pro.  It’s slightly different to the first two books in the series, but written equally as fantastically as The Night Stalker.  Overall four stars from me.  Thanks to Bookouture, Rob Bryndza and NetGalley for the ARC.  I have chosen to write this review.

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