The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson
Brighton Beach, 1993
Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.
Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.
But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…
Fast-paced and thrilling, The Brighton Mermaid explores the deadly secrets of those closest to you.
This author is a new author to me. I saw the cover revealed on social media and instantly knew I wanted to review it. The cover is amazing and combined with the synopsis, gives the book its crime fiction edge. The mystery surrounding the Brighton mermaid; a murdered woman from 1993 and the young woman who found her body, now determined to get justice.
26th June 1993 Nell and her bestie Jude, having sneaked out in the night. Stumble across the dead body of a young woman. Nell feels the urge to help the dead woman and is in almost disbelief at what she is seeing before her. She can’t take her eyes from the detailed mermaid tattoo and it is this that will go on, to give the victim her name in the media.
‘She was still; tranquil, lifeless’
The novel then jumps to the present day 25yrs later. Nell has been working as a supermarket assistant manager for 8yrs, saving her every penny, to take a year off. A year off to pursue her own investigation into the Brighton mermaid case and the disappearance of Jude. I admired her dedication to the victims and you witness this throughout the novel.
Nell and Jude were severely mistreated in the 1990s, on the discovery of the victim. They weren’t treated as the child witnesses they were, but as potential suspects themselves. The racist policing in the 1990s is fully explored and the scenes are vividly played out before your eyes.
‘I looked into the faces of the police officers, saw how angry they were that we were wasting their time like this, and knew our lives were never going to be the same again’ – Nell
The scenes really got me thinking about 1990s policing. An era not only affected by institutional racism within the police force. But an era, where children/teenagers feared the authority of the police much more than they do now. An era where young people did not see the police as a figure of help or support.
I was also becoming addicted to the case of the Brighton mermaid.
What happened to the woman on the beach?
And why did Jude disappear?
In the present day, Nell has the support of her sister Macy, her partner Shane and children Clara, Willow and Aubrey. This is her little family and where she feels accepted. There are complications, due to the fact that Shane was originally Nell’s first teenage boyfriend. But her sister urges them both to put the past behind them. Nell and her sister Macy are very close.
But they Both have secrets.
Don’t we all?
In the past, after the discovery of the Brighton mermaid’s body. Enelle (Nell) and Judana (Jude) discuss the victim and their role in the case. Jude stole the victim’s charm bracelet as a keepsake and feels an attachment to the victim.
‘She looks like us Nell. That could be me or you strangled – and probably raped – on the beach and no one would care after a couple of weeks. It’s not right’ – Jude
Just a few weeks later, Jude goes missing, leaving Nell devastated and alone. Not only that the police circle in on Nell’s father, claiming him as a suspect due to his appearance as a “big. . . black fella”. Nell’s father faces on-going police and community harassment. That will not only change the way Nell views the police but in one way destroy her entire family. . . .
After the discovery of the Brighton mermaid and disappearance of Jude. Several other bodies were discovered and labelled as ‘mermaid’ victims also. It is then that Nell, begins to wonder is Jude a mermaid? Is that why she has never heard from her?
In the present day, the cop who harassed Nell’s father relentlessly pleads for her help. John Pope claims to have new evidence and possible links to the case. Can Nell trust him? How do you trust the man that destroyed your family?
They may make the most unlikely of pairings, but together could they solve the case?
I really enjoyed this novel. I found Nell to be daring, brave and driven. She is central to the plot and its unravelling throughout and this works extremely well. Nell is likeable, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with her, on her quest for justice. The tension within her surrounding relationships with others, creates a gripping ending!
Edgy crime fiction, with a journey into the 1990s 4*