William Shaw is one of the few crime authors I automatically want to read now whenever they have a new book out. Although I’ve still got some catching up to do with his earlier ‘Breen & Tozer’ series set in the 1960s, I am up to date and still loving his ‘DI Alexandra Cupidi’ series having now read the new fourth one, The Trawlerman. As before, it is set in Kent around moody and evocative area of Dungeness where Cupidi lives with her daughter Zoe. As always, and in common with other favourite crime authors of mine, Shaw likes to build his plots around particular contemporary issues – more on that below, but here is a reminder of the first three:
- Salt Lane – Immigration and gang masters on Kent farms
- Deadland – Art crime, fraud and teenagers on the run
- Graves End – House building and the environment with a superb badger.
The naked corpses of a middle-aged couple are found in their house, there’s a note in blood, a man at the pub who claims to have seen their souls ascending at the exact time of death, and reports of someone lurking in the undergrowth perhaps watching them nearby. DC Jill Ferriter is investigating. Her boss DI Alexandra Cupidi is elsewhere – on leave – while she recovers from post-traumatic stress, after the traumas of her previous case (presumably the events in Graves End, but you don’t need to know about that for this book).
Once a police officer though, always a police officer, and with it being a local case, Alex can’t help being interested. Jill will only tell her so much, so she goes to the pub and golf club and gets talking to the man who saw the ‘souls’ and the dead man’s best friend. Her daughter Zoe, now seventeen, is spending much of her time either volunteering at the wildlife reserve, or with new friends in Folkestone, a recently married couple, Tina and Stella. Tina’s husband Frank disappeared at sea seven years previously – now presumed dead – the trawlerman of the title?
When it is discovered that the dead couple had invested in an environmental scheme that turned out to be a scam, things begin to get complicated, especially when Alex finds out that her friend Bill has also lost his much smaller savings in the scheme alongside many others. Although her boss had warned her off, Alex can’t leave it alone, and she also gets drawn into the fishy case of the missing trawlerman.
Given that the cases within this novel as with the others in this series are discrete, you could start with this volume. However, I think you’d soon want to find out more about Alex and Bill in particular. Jill Ferriter has a smaller supporting role in The Trawlerman than in previous books, giving more space to Alex and her daughter Zoe, who has split loyalties between her mother, Bill and her new friends. Alex has good days and bad days and it’s clear she’s not yet fully recovered. PTSD is not a subject that comes up in most police dramas (the recent series of Unforgotten on ITV excepted) and Shaw brings that to the fore alongside his continuing focus on issues of social justice – I won’t say more about the details of that in this case to prevent spoiling things. What wouldn’t be spoiling though, is that I think I’ve worked out from her visit to see her mother that Alex is the daughter of Helen Tozer in Shaw’s earlier series, which gives a nice link between the two.
The action in The Trawlerman all happens between Dungeness and Folkestone – twenty or so miles apart with the golf club in between. I love the uniqueness of the landscape of Dungeness and the Romney Marshes, which always plays its part in the Cupidi novels. As I’ve come to expect from Shaw, The Trawlerman is another superbly well-paced novel with a fascinating plot and some great supporting characters (Curly being a favourite). This one is slightly shorter than the previous book in the series, and I almost felt short-changed, its page-turning properties made it so quick to read (in a good way though). I can’t recommend William Shaw’s Cupidi books highly enough, and I’m going to add the first Breen & Tozer one to my 20 Books of Summer bookcase too.
Source: Review copy – thank you! William Shaw, The Trawlerman, Riverrun hardback, 329 pages.
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