Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Salt Lane - William Shaw

Depending on where you look, William Shaw’s Salt Lane is either the first or the second book in the author’s DS Alexandria Cupidi series. Personally, I am of the opinion that it is the second book in the series because Alex Cupidi is one of the central characters in The Birdwatcher, a Shaw novel that preceded Salt Lane. And especially since there are at present only four Alex Cupidi books in all anyway, I would recommend that everyone read The Birdwatcher before picking up Salt Lane. 

Alexandria Cupidi comes across in The Birdwatcher as a self-absorbed, shrill, insensitive, holier-than-thou you-know-what — but a very good cop nonetheless. All in all, in fact, it was hard to figure out why Shaw thought anyone would want to read a second book about the woman at all. She certainly was not the kind of sympathetic character that anyone could love. All of that, though, largely changes in this second look at Cupidi. She has settled into life now in her small Kentish seaside community, and the rest of the police department there have accepted her now. They may not like her much, but they see that she is a good cop and that she’s good for the department. It helps, too, that we learn much of Cupidi’s backstory in this one.


Oh, Cupidi is still having problems with her young-teen daughter Zöe, so there’s that. At times the two of them barely communicate even though they live alone in an isolated beach cottage that seldom sees a visitor. Zöe has her avid bird-watching and Alex has her time-consuming work, and both of them are totally absorbed in their own worlds. By the time Alex realizes how isolated Zöe has become, the only solution she can come up with is to ask her mother to move in with them for a while. But then, because Alex has never really gotten along with her mother, all of a sudden she is the odd one out.


William Shaw
The real beauty of Salt Lane for me involves the bonding that happens between DS Cupidi and Jill Ferriter, the fearless young constable who’s been assigned to her care and mentoring. Jill is the kind of young cop who reminds me of what Alex must have been like as a young cop herself — minus all the rough edges. Both women live to get justice for the victims of people who do not deserve to be on the outside of prison walls. But both of them are prone to jumping into dangerous situations before calling for proper backup, a habit that often sees them nursing each other’s wounds in the aftermath. Their new partnership works so well because each is  willing to learn from the other, and because each of them probably sees a little of herself in the other. 


This one begins with the discovery of a woman’s body found floating in one of the countless waterways in the marshland along the Kentish coast. Police do manage to identify the woman, but they can’t find a cause of her death. Things get weird when police pay a London visit to the woman’s son only to learn that his mother had just spent the previous night with him and his family. Because the recovered body had been in the water for days, that was impossible. So who is the dead woman, really? And who is the homeless woman who showed up at the man’s London home claiming to be his long lost mother, the very woman who had put her son up for adoption as a two-year-old?


That’s bizarre enough, but when a second body, that of a man who appears to be in the country illegally, turns up on a nearby farm, the small police department is stretched to its limits. Can the murders possibly be related? It’s up to Alex Cupidi, Jill Ferriter, and their colleagues to figure this one out, but before it is over, it is Cupidi and Ferriter who will pay the steepest price of them all.


Bottom Line: I am now thoroughly hooked on the Alex Cupidi books, so hooked that I find myself wanting to slow down on them so that I don’t have to wait months for a new fifth series book to be published. The books are very atmospheric and very character-driven. There are no superheroes in the Cupidi books, only a lot of ordinary people doing their best to achieve something rather extraordinary with their lives. Do take a look at these because I think you will enjoy them. 

14 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more about these books, Sam, but you probably already knew that. ;-)

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    1. I do for a fact, Cathy, and I will always appreciate you tipping me to them, starting with The Birdwatcher.

      Now if Alex could just figure out how to get Zöe to carry her cell phone to the bird sanctuary, I would rest much easier.

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    2. It might still give Alex some comfort to know the kid is not completely oblivious to her surroundings. LOL

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  2. UGH, you did it Sam and, forced me to add both titles to the TBR - honestly, this sounds like one I'd enjoy.

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    1. Sorry about that, Diane. :-)

      If at all possible, do read The Birdwatcher first for some perspective on the main characters of Salt Lane. You can jump directly into Salt Lane without a real problem, but it is so much better if you've already read Birdwatcher.

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  3. I've enjoyed this series. I wasn't sure about how I'd feel about the shift of the main character to Cupiditi, but it worked out well!

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    1. It really did, didn't it. I'm surprised to find that my library doesn't have a hardcopy of the next one and that the digital version of my library doesn't even have it in audio or e-book format. Looks like I may have to spring for a paperback copy.

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  4. Glad to hear you're liking this series so much. I can't wait to read The Birdwatcher. But I might not get to it until next year, which feels strange to say since 2020 feels like it will never end!

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    1. Let's just hope at this point that 2021 doesn't turn into 2020 - Part II.

      The Birdwatcher is worth the wait. I think you'll love it when you get to it.

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  5. I'll have to think about this one. I enjoyed The Birdwatcher a lot but not Cupidi. And I'm not sure I can stand another mother having problems with a teenage daughter. Don't authors know that plenty of teens are not a problem to their parents? I had none with my own daughters and they in turn have not had problems with theirs. Going back to my own teenage years I was also not difficult with my own mother who was a lone parent. It gets very tedious and I lose patience with all the angst. In fact a few years ago an author sent me an arc of her new book which everyone else had loved... I got about 20 pages in and the the teenage daughter angst stuff began... I had to write and apologise to the author and tell her I was sorry but I couldn't read it because of that. Embarrassing but she was fine about it.

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    1. There's not that much angst in it, though, Cath, and I'm speaking as the only child of a single parent who didn't cause her mother problems. The odd thing is, I have much less tolerance when watching teen angst on the telly than I do in reading it in books. Perhaps it's because I'm better at choosing the books I read than I am about the TV I watch...

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    2. Well that's very good to hear, Cathy, and will influence my decision. I did love reading about the Kent coast area where the books were set, it's an area I've never been and plan to once this covid business is behind us. Funny thing is that I'm the opposite to you, I can cope with teenage angst on TV but in books it seems much more concentrated somehow. I managed with The Birdwatcher as there wasn't heaps in it but the ARC I mentioned was not a crime novel and therefore one of the main themes of the book was the angst of the teen. Interesting subject.

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    3. Cath, I think it's mostly that the kid is unhappy having been yanked from big city schools and friends into a little town where she has to prove herself to everyone all over again or end up with no friends. She seems to have settled on the second approach. Her mother knows she's unhappy and worries about her quietness and isolation. But the job is demanding and she can go a whole day without seeing her daughter. And Alex is also worried about Zöe's obsession with birdwatching all on her own now that she's lost her mentor to prison. Not a lot of fighting between them...much more a Cold War situation.

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