Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Night Ferry ($7.99), by Michael Robotham

This is the third book in a loosely connected series written by Robotham. This time the point of view is that of Alisha Barba, a police detective in London. She is Sikh, a female, unmarried -- much to her mother's consternation -- and recovering from severe injuries incurred in Lost, Robotham's last book.

Ali's best friend from her teenage years, Cate, contacts her after years of estrangement. Unfortunately, soon after their reunion, Cate is killed. Ali suspects that her death is not accidental. Although Ali is still recovering from her injuries and is in limbo at the police department, she doesn't hesitate to become involved in figuring out why Cate has asked her for help. We gradually learn the reason for the estrangement and it is part of the personal mix that drives Ali.

This is the second book I've read within the last week dealing with human trafficking. The first one was Siren of the Waters by Michael Genelin, set in Slovakia. The Night Ferry is set in England and Amsterdam. Both deal with people, especially young women, from countries under siege whose limited options in their own countries force them to take chances to better their lives. Sometimes it is not even a choice that they make, sometimes they are just stolen away from right under the noses of a careless, uncaring, or corrupt government.

Ali eventually meets a young woman from Afghanistan, Samira, who holds the key to why Cate is dead. Ali is assisted by "New Boy" Dave, her earnest non-Sikh boyfriend, and Ruiz, her former mentor. The very serious, and sometimes brutal, story gains shape and velocity. The occasional humorous and warm glimpse into Sikh family life adds to the tale without slowing it down. Robotham creates a thrilling and surprising story with this international mish-mash of characters.

Robotham does especially well in creating the character of Ali Barba. She is tough because a police detective has to be and because an Indian Sikh growing up in a British public school must be. She is vulnerable to her family and to the possibility of a solid, lasting relationship with the importunate Dave. She is a stubborn, abrupt, loyal, intriguing character whom you would want on your side in a fight.

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