A gruesome discovery made in the waters surrounding the drug-riddled seaside town of Bristol is the jumping-off point for the popular British author’s grisly thriller.
Good news for readers: This book, arriving in the wake of its turgid predecessor Pig Island (2007), reintroduces burnt-out police detective Jack Caffery, whose sardonic presence lent powerful gravitas to Hayder’s excellent first two novels. Caffery is now a DI in the Mahor Crime Investigative Unit based in Bristol, and thus becomes instantly involved when police diver Sergeant Phoebe “Flea” Marley finds an amputated human hand in the aforementioned waters. Forensics suggest its possessor was alive when the appendage was severed. But when its matching hand soon turns up, the worst is feared, then confirmed, in a parallel narrative that identifies the victim as a notorious drug addict and slowly reveals the depths of the hell into which he had stumbled. Hayder ups the ante tellingly, plaiting together the story of the crime. She continues Caffery’s quest for the truth about his younger brother, missing since childhood and presumed long dead, and addresses the demons that haunt Flea, still traumatized by the loss of her parents. When the case of the severed hands (perhaps inspired by the 2001 discovery in the Thames of the murdered body of a young African boy, “Adam”) is painstakingly connected to the sale of body parts for use in arcane African religious rituals, the novel’s grotesqueries and repetitions emerge as essential elements in a perfectly articulated process of minute ratiocination and honestly earned imaginative empathy.
A brilliant recovery of form. Hayder is back.