In this mystery sequel, D’Avanzo (Cold Blood, Hot Sea, 2016) puts her heroine, Dr. Mara Tusconi, off the coast of British Columbia to investigate some fishy activity on Haida Gwaii archipelago.
A shady American businessman, Roger Grant, persuaded the Haida people to allow tons of iron slurry to be dumped into the ocean off their island’s coast, as it would supposedly encourage algae blooms, which it does, and dramatically increase the salmon population, which it doesn’t. Mara and two colleagues from the Maine Oceanographic Institute, Harvey Allison and her half brother (and Mara’s boyfriend) Ted McKnight, have been sent under the aegis of the United Nations to see whether the dumping arrangement is legitimate and ecologically sound. The jamming of the rudder on Mara’s sea kayak is just the first of a string of suspicious “accidents” that suggest bad guys at work. But when the body of William Edenshaw, a young tribal Watchman, is found dead in a hot pool, it’s clear that evil is afoot. Many scary adventures ensue, culminating in a kidnapping, which leads to a couple of very impressive climactic chapters. There are a few loose ends that aren’t tied up, such as why a member of the town environmental council exhibits Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies and how William was actually killed, but for the most part, readers get the answers that they’re looking for. There’s also a clever subtheme of Mara’s strongly scientific worldview being challenged by preternatural occurrences (such as “Feathers that magically appeared”) that, to the Haida, are almost mundane; this gives the character a chance to gain wisdom. Readers will also learn a lot about oceanography, as it’s marine ecologist and environmental educator’s D’Avanzo’s professional interest. A third installment is in the offing.
A fine entry in D’Avanzo’s oceanography-themed series, which fills an unusual niche in the mystery genre.