The Girl From The Sea by Shalini Boland is one of those really small books that will get missed by too many readers because they’ll never hear about it. That is too bad. This is a book that needs strong marketing behind it to draw attention to what may be one of the more original and freshest voice in modern mystery. What starts off as a tale of loss memory, tense atmosphere and the threat of impending danger; instead turns into something far more sinister and twisted.
“…As I approach the hospital bathroom mirror, I’m almost too scared to look. Will I recognize myself? After the police officers left yesterday, I slept. Consequently, I woke this morning, feeling a little stronger, a little more determined. And I’m off the drip finally, so at least I feel less like an invalid. My memory is still missing, but I will get it back. I’ll do everything it takes, starting with facing myself in the mirror. Hoping against hope that I’ll recognize the person staring back at me.
I have deliberately unfocused my eyes. The mirror sits above the sink, directly in front of me, but I must gather up my courage to look properly. I take a deep breath and stand up straight. I let my eyes relax and do their job of seeing.
Before me stands a woman-maybe early to mid-twenties. Sallow skin, brown eyes and a dark tangle of hair. She could definitely do with some mascara and lipstick. I put my hands to my face. To my pale lips, my dark eyebrows, to my nose which tips up at the end. I almost look like I could be Spanish or Italian.
Is that me…”
Mia James is found, washed up on a beach, with no memory of how she got there or who she is. As her past begins to unfold she finds that she has a fiance and a family and a wonderful life. But that is all on the surface and as she digs deeper than what friends and family seem willing to tell her; Mia finds that her life was far from idyllic and her friends and family are not who they seem to be. She finds that she herself may not be who they want her to believe she is.
“…I reached the end of the High Street and walk toward the Priory in a drunken, depressed, rain-sodden daze. The cobbles are slick with rain and I have to tread carefully in my slippery sandals. I push open the kissing fate, its hinges squeak and groan as I slide through. The Priory stands proudly unaffected by the downpour, like it has done for the past millennium. Solid and enduring.
The graveyard is deserted apart from a lone woman coming towards me, her blonde hair soaked through. She looks angry. Maybe she just had an argument with someone. I stop dead. I know her. It’s the woman from my dream. The one from my balcony. She’s coming closer, her face twisted in fury. But she looks so much more than furious-she looks mad. Dangerous. Murderous…”
Mia begins to realize that events that ended with her drowning in the sea seem to be on course to happen again.
What separates this novel from the dirge of female lead mysteries flooding the market is that the author dares to take risks with her story. To say much more is to give away the twists that make this story so good. I am so reluctant to do that because that is pretty much like telling you what’s in the present on Christmas morning before you have a chance to open it.
The Girl From The Sea is a surprisingly well crafted novel of memory and truth and the darker side of both.