The Seal King Murders

Written by Alanna Knight
Review by Sara Wilson

In 1861 Detective Constable Faro returns to his native Orkney, ostensibly to visit his mother but actually tasked to investigate the drowning of Dave Claydon – a champion swimmer. To complicate matters this mysterious death coincided with the disappearance of artifacts recovered from a sunken Armada galleon. Staying with his mother at Scarthbreck, where she is housekeeper to the wealthy Prentiss-Grants, Faro meets Celia, the daughter of the household on an evening walk on the beach. By the next morning she has disappeared, leaving a pile of her clothes on the shore.  There is a legend that the seal king annually steals a human bride and once before a local girl, Thora, went missing on the beach at Lammastide, only to turn up a year later with apparently no memory of where she had been. But the local Inspector believes that a real man is responsible for Celia’s disappearance – Constable Faro himself.  It is up to Faro now to clear his name and get to the bottom of both the mysteries.

This is part a series of books on Faro as a Chief Inspector in the Edinburgh City Police, but The Seal King Murders is only the second to be written about his early career in the 1860s. It can easily be read by anyone unacquainted with the other Faro novels and assumes no previous knowledge of the character or his exploits. It is a good solid work of historical detective fiction, providing plenty of action and plot twists to keep the reader interested.

There is a good sense of time and place, with the Orkney Islands and people being particularly well realised. The resolutions to the twin plots are not too hard to guess, but they are well-written and satisfying nonetheless. All-in-all a very enjoyable read.