‘Dark Water’ by Robert Bryndza (@RobertBryndza)

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Looking for vital evidence in a narcotics case, DCI Erika Foster stands by as police divers search the bottom of a disused quarry. It’s a long shot, the conditions as harsh as they get, but the suspect’s wife is clear that this is where they will find the haul of drugs and their recovery is essential to the investigation. It’s not the kind of case Erika wants to be working, but after burning bridges at her old station, it’s the only place she now fits.

When the divers recover the case, they are excited, knowing that it contains not only millions of pounds worth of drugs, but the potential to put a dealer away for years. But their excitement is short lived when one of the divers discovers another package, one containing far more sinister contents linking to a case that is now twenty-six years old.

In 1990, seven-year-old Jessica Collins left her home to go to the birthday party of a friend. Her journey was short; her friends home just a few hundred yards from her own. But Jessica never arrived at the party, and despite a detailed investigation lasting several years, she was never found. It was the case that broke the senior investigating officer, Amanda Baker, and one that left a family devastated.

For anyone who knew the case, it was considered a poisoned chalice, the unsolvable career killer, and yet to Erika, as the officer present when Jessica’s remains are discovered, it is a case she is willing to fight for. One she is determined to solve. But with a twenty-six year-old cold case, where should she start? Someone is determined to stop her investigation, someone who prefers the truth remain buried. But who has the motive, and why would they not want the killer of a young girl brought to justice? Calling on her old team of Moss and Peterson for support, Erika faces the biggest challenge of her career in trying to find the truth among a tangled web of lies and deceit, decades in the making.

‘Dark Water’ is another stunning novel from Robert Bryndza. It is perhaps not as dramatic as the first two stories in the Erika Foster series, the tragedy of the death of a child which has been hidden for nearly three decades not as fast paced as the action in ‘The Night Stalker’ by any stretch. And yet it is a story which still delivers on the intrigue, misdirection and tension. Someone is going to great lengths to cover their tracks, Erika’s life once again in jeopardy as her involvement in the case becomes too much of a risk and liability to those responsible.

I have to be honest and say that at one point, fairly early on, I kind of had an inkling where this story was heading, but what I couldn’t work out was why. I won’t say too much about that, and allow you to see if you can work it out for yourself. Suffice to say that there are enough shady characters – the parents who seem reluctant to open up to Erika and the team, the solicitor who is perhaps just a touch too helpful, the local paedophiles, suspected in the original investigation but the police were unable to find any conclusive evidence to convict – that you will be kept guessing, and second guessing, both suspect and motive until the end of the story. Even though I thought I knew who and why, I was still surprised by the ending and the tragedy of the needless loss of life made all the more poignant and moving by the emotions of those involved. Although ultimate sympathy is always saved for poor Jessica, there are, in the end, so many victims in this story, it is hard to know who to feel truly sorry for.

The suffering of the family was believable and tugged at the heartstrings and Bryndza excels at capturing their emotion on the page as always. The mother’s descent into depression as the child she had refused to believe dead is finally brought home to them, is extremely well written, as is the reaction of Jessica’s sister who, of the two siblings, remembers more of the child Jessica used to be. It is a tragic story, as the death of any child would be, one which pushes Erika and the team to their limit, especially Peterson who has his own demons to battle when it comes to dealing with people who prey on young girls. And yet it is a story which frustrates too, as people close to the investigation seem more intent on maintaining a myriad of lies and protecting their own secrets, than helping to find the truth of what happened to Jessica.

It is good to see the team back together, as it was hard to see how it could happen given how things were left at the end of the last book. It will be intriguing to see how it all progresses from here too, as Erika’s position is still with the team at the Bromley nick. While I did start to like newbie DS McGorry, his relationship with Erika is nowhere near as developed as it is with her old team yet, and the dynamic with Moss and Peterson is a hard one to beat. The scenes with her Erika’s sister did allow us to see the more emotional side of her character, one which led her to a rather interesting development for Erika on the personal front.

This is not a fast paced story – it’s a cold case and I wouldn’t expect it to be. But while I found it to be a slow burner, it still held my attention, making me want to keep turning the page, compelled to find out just what has happened. Despite anticipating the ending, I was still moved by it and I think that this is the key to this story. It is more a manipulation of my emotions than a heart pumping action adventure, but don’t let that fool you. It still has its edge of the seat moments. The twists worked well and suited the story, although I will admit that the actions of former Detective Chief Inspector Amanda Baker did take me a little by surprise – an eyebrow raiser to say the very least.

As expected, with ‘Dark Water’ Mr Bryndza did not disappoint, I have no hesitation in giving this a tragically brilliant 5 stars and I can’t wait to see what is next for Erika.

5

My thanks to publishers Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me the copy of ‘Dark Water’ in exchange for an honest review.

‘Dark Water’ by Robert Bryndza is released on 20th October and is available to order here:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com