The first thing you notice about Iona Whishaw’s Dead in the Water is the British style factor. You’re deep in 1940s farm country in fictional King’s Cove, British Columbia, but the cars and hats and witty dialog will make you miss an England you never had, where your stockings had seams and you put the milk in first for your tea.
On its face, Dead in the Water is a murder mystery, and boy is it satisfying. It’s page-turney. You’ll burn whatever you’re cooking. You fall for every red herring, you trust no one, you wake up your sleeping spouse by yelping when you find out who the mysterious stranger is. The story architecture is rock-solid, the writing is lush with detail but still restrained, and the frisson between the police detective and the amateur sleuth will make you itch for a sequel.
But below the surface, this is also a story about WWII and the way war has of lingering after the peace comes. The author makes the war personal to each character, and you feel its effects in their daily decisions. I was completely drawn in by clever, steely Lane Winslow and sweet Inspector Darling, by the vibrant setting and the period details and the irresistible gossip scenes at the post office. But these characters are haunted, each alone with their own war. Lane’s determined path to starting a new life in the new world is thick with obstacles, psychological and external. That is the real territory of this book, and the ghosts of King’s Cove will stay with you long after you put it down. I hope this is the first in a long series from Iona Whishaw, my new favorite mystery author.