Blood, Salt, Water: An Alex Morrow Novel, by Denise Mina

Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow has been featured in five books by Denise Mina. This was the last (so far) and was published in 2015. Mina is a diverse writer and her works have included novels, plays, radio plays, comics, and graphic novels.

Alex Morrow is a wonderfully complex character and it has been interesting to follow her progress through all five books. She’s a detective in a smaller city in Scotland. She has an “anger management” problem and an authority issue. By this book she is married, has twin sons, and her half-brother, a gang figure who figured in the earlier books, is now in prison. Alex helped put him there in book four.

The book is written from several different perspectives. It begins with an ex-con named Ian who has killed a woman and helped to dump her body in a lake. This is the first crime that Morrow must help solve. It also tells the story of the owner of a local restaurant who finds himself involved with a woman who has returned to town, but who was familiar with both the restaurant owner and Ian when they were learning sailing in school.

In addition to the murder, Morrow is also following up on the disappearance of a beautiful Italian woman who is suspected of doing money laundering. She has become a subject of particular interest because whichever department can claim jurisdiction on her arrest will benefit from her seized assets, very attractive at a time of budget cuts and closed constabularies.

Another theme running through the book is the separatist vote in Scotland which ultimately failed but was at an emotional peak by the time this book was published.

Mina manages to flesh out the backgrounds of the main characters of interest as she weaves the stories together, finally revealing a plot twist more unusual than even the dense and moody mystery would suggest.

Though part of a series, it’s a fine stand-alone book that needs no catching up to dig into the story. Morrow is a hard and intelligent detective who is fun to follow, and there are other fascinating characters to carry the story along.