Audiobook Review: Black Coral by Andrew Mayne
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Book 2 of Underwater Investigation Unit
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (February 16, 2021)
Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Coming to this from Andrew Mayne’s The Naturalist series, Underwater Investigation Unit is definitely his tamer and more traditional police procedural crime thriller, though of course with the added hook of solving water-related mysteries and diving for evidence recovery in submerged crime scenes.
Black Coral is the second novel in the sequence, but can easily be enjoyed as a standalone. Once more we follow protagonist Sloan McPherson into the murky depths of South Florida’s water system as the newly minted Underwater Investigation Unit is called out to salvage a car wreck at the bottom of a pond. While diving near the accident site, however, Sloan inadvertently stumbles upon a second vehicle, this one much older. After hauling it out of the water, authorities determine it to be a van belonging to four teenagers who disappeared thirty years ago following a rock concert. Friends and family had wanted to believe the kids simply ran away, but from the waterlogged van’s contents emerges the tragic truth: all this time, the four teens had been dead inside, victims of an apparent accident.
But to Sloan, the evidence just doesn’t add up. Found among the van’s remains are suspicious items that make her question how its passengers really died. Every instinct is telling her there had been a fifth person there, whose identity and whereabouts are currently unknown. As the pieces start falling into place, Sloan realizes with a dawning horror that her investigations may be pointing to a possible serial killer still on the loose, whose activities have thus far remained undetected for the past three decades or more. Convincing others of her theory will take some work, though. So far, the only support she has is from her colleague Hughes and their boss George Solar, and with the UIU still in its fledgling state, this mystery might prove too much for them to handle.
Over the past few years, Andrew Mayne has become my go-to author for a guaranteed good read when it comes to the mystery and thriller genres. While I won’t lie, I’d been hoping for more of his attention to go to his Theo Cray series, Sloan McPherson has nonetheless been establishing herself as a worthy contender for new fan favorite. She’s an awesome character who is a diamond in the rough, flawed but easily relatable. Never one to back down from a challenge or to allow anyone to make her feel ashamed of where she came from, she knows her family is messed up but she’s also fiercely loyal to them and will do anything to be a good parent and a role model to her adolescent daughter. As for her position with the UIU, Sloan takes pride in her work and loves her job, vowing to seek justice for the victims and to never stop doing the right thing.
For what it’s worth, compared to some of the other works I’ve read by the author, this series also feels relatively more self-restrained and down-to-earth. That said, it’s important to note that we sacrifice none of the action and suspense for the heavier police procedural elements. The pacing definitely comes across as more methodical and slower to build, though the energy remains strong throughout, helped along by the numerous unexpected plot twists and red herrings. Personally, I also enjoy crime thrillers revolving around cold cases and catching serial killers, so for me Black Coral was a compulsive read even without the fascinating underwater and diving angle. Plus, from a giant alligator named Big Bill to hunting for bodies in the Everglades, the cultural and geographical characteristics of the south Florida setting had a huge role in making this one a memorable experience.
Bottom line, in Black Coral we have another winning mystery thriller from Andrew Mayne. I have yet to read a book by him I dislike, and fans of the author and the genre should take care not to miss the Underwater Investigation Unit books for a unique and compelling take on detective work and crime solving.
Audiobook Comments: Susannah Jones reprises her role as narrator for this sequel, and again she delivers a fantastic performance as the voice of Sloan McPherson. She most definitely has the ideal voice for a strong lead. These audiobooks are highly recommended.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Girl Beneath the Sea (Book 1)