Beneath the water in the disused quarry it was still, cold, and very dark. The body sank rapidly, pulled by the weights, down, down, down, finally coming to rest with a nudge in the soft freezing mud.
She would lie still and undisturbed for many years, almost at peace. But above her, on dry land, the nightmare was only just beginning.
Detective Erika Foster receives a tip that key evidence in a major narcotics case is stashed in an abandoned quarry on the outskirts of London. She orders that it be searched. But the search yields more than she expected. The drugs are recovered from the thick sludge.
But so is the skeleton of a young child. The remains are identified as those of seven-year-old Jessica Collins who has been missing for twenty-six years ago. She vanished en route to a birthday party in her neighborhood. She never arrived at the party and she was never found. Her disappearance made headlines at the time, but was long ago deemed a cold case.
Erika strives to piece new evidence together with the few details discovered during the initial investigation. In the process, she encounters a family harboring dark secrets, a former detective haunted by her failure to solve the case all those years ago, and the mysterious death of a man living by the quarry.
Ericka soon realizes that someone doesn’t want the case solved. And they will do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.
The third installment in author Robert Bryndza’s popular Erika Foster series finds her in a new assignment working with new colleagues. And not very happy about it. She is gamely trying to make the best of her circumstances and thrilled when divers find the ten kilos of heroin packed into a waterproof container that sent them to the abandoned quarry. When they also find the skeletal remains of seven-year-old Jessica Collins, Erika naturally wonders who would dump the body of a small child thirty feet down in the freezing blackness . . . less than one mile from where she disappeared. She asks to be allowed to lead the search for her killer so that her family can know what happened to the child and lay her to rest. As she looks around Jessica’s neighborhood, she notes what a disturbing and perplexing case it is. “I just imagine Jessica out here, so cloe to home, but all alone. Did she scream> Did anyone hear her from behind the thick hedges when she was taken? Why dump her in the water less than a mile from her home? what if it was someone on this street?”
When her request is granted, Erika is reunited with her old teammates, including Detectives Peterson and Moss. The original investigation was led by former Detective Amanda Baker, who honed in on a suspect. However, Amanda had no choice but to release him and from that point, things went terribly awry. Amanda ended up retiring early and in the ensuring years has become an alcoholic hermit. But she has maintained a relationship with Detective Crawford, who was also assigned to the case years ago. He lost interest in police work years ago and Amanda pulled him into selling seized drugs fifteen years ago. When the investigation is reopened, Amanda demands that he funnel information to her, threatening to expose him if he doesn’t acquiesce.
Jessica’s family fractured after her disappearance. Her father, Martin, has a new life that includes a new wife and two young children. Jessica’s older sister, Laura, is married with two young children of her own. Younger brother Toby, who is gay, has never been accepted by their mother, Marianne, a religious fanatic who lives alone in the family home. She has told herself for twenty-six years that Jessica is alive and will return, so confirmation of Jessica’s death all those years ago is a huge blow and she does not handle the news well. In fact, the more Erika learns about Jessica’s family, the more questions arise. “The secrets seem to run deeper this more I look into this case,” Erika thinks to herself.
As the investigation proceeds, neither Erika nor Amanda is aware that their every movement is being watched and all of their conversations overheard. Someone has gone to great lengths to install listening devices in strategic locations and hack their cellular telephones in order to stay apprised of developments in the case . . . and ensure that Erika does not discover the truth.
As in the two previous installments in the series, The Girl in the Ice and The Night Stalker, Bryndza explores Erika’s professional and personal lives. She is a deeply flawed, but compelling and intriguing characters who recognizes that her past mistakes have hampered her advancement. She tells her good friend, Commander March, “I’m aware I can be an idiot. If I wasn’t such an idiot at times, I know I could be a superintendent by now,” as she asks him to put in a good word for her so that she can be assigned to lead the investigation into Jessica’s death. She assures him that she won’t “crack under pressure,” but will not be able to tolerate “the merry-go-round of taking drug dealers off the street, only for another one to take his place.” Indeed, even though she is given the assignment she longs for, Erika is expected to deliver results — and correspondingly motivated to do so. Bryndza continues exploring Erika’s ongoing grief over her husband’s death, providing moving insight into how difficult she still finds living without him as time passes, taking her life further from the moment when she lost him. Which compounds the guilt she feels. “It’s hard to be a widow. Mark was my life, he was the love of my life and hes gone. He’s never going to come back, and yet I spend every day thinking about him . . . and it’s exhausting, it exhausting grieving, and living with this huge gap in my life,” Erika explains. In the midst of everything thing else she is dealing with, Erika must also cope with the unannounced arrival from Slovakia of her sister and her three children, all of whom descend upon Erika’s small apartment.
Thus, Erika is surrounded by an eclectic cast of supporting players, many of whom could be plausible suspects. Dark Water is the most emotionally nuanced of the three novels, and not merely because of the subject matter — the disappearance and death of a young child. Bryndza examines the complicated history and dynamics of Jessica’s family, and the revelations of their long-held secrets and dysfunction compel the story forward. He never allows the pace to slacken, even as the focus shifts between characters and settings, and he seamlessly eliminates suspects as Erika and her colleagues uncover how the characters have been bound together for decades and their motivations. Bryndza cleverly intertwine old evidence with present-day discoveries, combining the use of modern technology to unravel secrets contained in older methodology. And he delivers stunning revelations that provide cohesion and a satisfying ending to his tightly-imagined plot.
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