Dorothy Koomson treats us to her darkest book yet in this haunting tale of two teenagers who find the body of a young woman washed up on the shore in 1993. Twenty-five years later, Nell is still obsessed by the woman who was never identified.
The scene is set beautifully when a night seemingly full of promise of a party held by sixth-formers which Jude had lied to her parents to attend. The horror of the discovery combined with the fear of her parent’s wrath when she had to be picked up from the police station was palpable. And then there was their treatment at the hands of the police who didn’t know at first whether to treat the girls as eye-witnesses or suspects. The two may have been able to put this behind them if Jude hadn’t subsequently disappeared without a trace.
Dorothy Koomson doesn’t just set the scene but the time so well. Of course in 1993 the girls didn’t have mobile phones so one stayed with the body while the other went to the phone box to report the crime. Then we switch to the present where the internet where Nell investigates the missing links between people using genealogy sites to help others find missing family. It is against this background that she takes a year off work to devote herself to finding out who the young woman was, and what happened to her best friend.
As always Dorothy Koomson uses a number of hard-hitting issues in The Brighton Mermaid but all are deeply woven into the story-line, not one appearing placed for effect alone and the author crucially gives the reader time to absorb and reflect on these rather than telling us what to think, the best kind of writing.
The first half of the book sets the scene and so unsurprisingly moves at a slightly slower paced but nonetheless I found it absorbing, but… you will need to hang onto your seats for the rattling pace of the second half as Nell gets closer to understanding what happened twenty-five years ago and the events that changed, her and her family’s life forever.
I loved the characters in this book, the relationship between Nell and her sister so realistically portrayed with all the shades of love and hate that often are present, brilliantly displayed and woven through the main mystery which delves so deeply into the past. This is a story of actions having far-reaching consequences and the ripples that spread throughout a family forcing them to reconsider their ‘family story.’
I’ve long considered this author one of my favourites and her books cover a whole range of different types of stories within the range that is labelled ‘woman’s fiction’ from the sentimental to this one which edges into the crime fiction genre but what all the books have in common is the way that they immerse you into the story, not letting you go even after the last page has been turned.
I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Century who allowed me to read a copy of The Brighton Mermaid prior to publication on 17 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author Dorothy Koomson.
Dorothy Koomson’s previous books:
The Cupid Effect (2003)
The Chocolate Run (2004)
My Best Friend’s Girl (2006)
Marshmallow’s for Breakfast (2007)
Goodnight Beautiful (2008)
The Ice Cream Girls (2010)
The Woman He Loved Before (2011)
The Rose Petal Beach (2012)
The Flavours of Love (2013)
That Girl From Nowhere (2015)
When I Was Invisible (2015)
The Friend (2017)