Book Reviews » The Malice of Waves

April 2nd 2017

imagesMark Douglas-Home
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Lynnaire Johnston

I have discovered a new way of reading. Allow me to explain. In the past, if a book mentioned something I didn’t know about I would generally just ignore it, remaining in blissful ignorance. Now, I just whip out my phone, google what I want to know, and find the answer instantly. There’s probably a funky name for this, but until I Google it, I’m calling it ‘interactive reading’. I first realised this was ‘a thing’ when reading The Sixth Extinction (a chillingly exciting thriller) and found myself constantly turning to my phone for answers to questions like how does a tiltrotor fly? And, what does a mesa look like? In my next book, The Underground Railway, I discovered (again thanks to Google), that in the 1800s parts of the United States were criss-crossed with illegal underground train tunnels which allowed slaves to escape across state lines and national borders. Most novels don’t explain in detail how these historical or geographical concepts worked so googling is the obvious solution.

Take the Outer Hebrides, an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. Not a place I know anything about, but having read The Malice of the Waves in consultation with Google, I can now tell you that hanging off a cliff by a rope is not generally survivable because the wind can send you into an uncontrollable spin. And, that collecting erythristic eggs (those with a highly-prized mottled, reddish tinge) from wild birds is both highly dangerous and illegal in the UK. Now, these facts may not be useful in my everyday life, but I find them fascinating. The Malice of the Waves is a cold-case murder mystery involving a young boy whose father every year employs a new expert to find who killed him. This year’s expert is an oceanographer specialising in tracking objects at sea. He knows all about what happens when bodies are submerged and happily shares the grisly details. The unusual location, the usual plots-within-plots and the small but diverse cast of characters makes this one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. ?Although it is only February!)