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Caught Up in a Dark and Twisted Tide -- Sharon Bolton's Latest

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Summer is here but I will not be jumping into any bodies of water to cool off, thanks to my beloved Sharon Bolton. A favorite harbinger of summer is the release of her latest thriller and A Dark and Twisted Tide met all my expectations of thrills, chills, and brain curls. It also left me hanging on tightly to the safety of my backyard lawn chair and vowing never ever to jump into any river -- or lake, for that matter -- any time soon. I don't want to run the chance of finding a dead body -- or two or three or more -- the way heroine Lacey Flynt does in the latest Bolton novel.

Granted, Lacey is swimming in the Thames, not exactly known for the pristine quality of its waters or for the safety of swimming therein. But just the thought of encountering what makes even the brave Lacey shiver down into her bones (to say nothing of the bones she encounters - shrouded in linen and shackled to the depths of darkness) may just keep me land bound for the foreseeable future. The added element of reports of mermaids -- drawing boaters to their death through haunting songs -- creeps me out in the deepest recesses of my brain, where my own belief in supernatural beings lays dormant until raised to blazing reality by the vivid writing of Bolton.

Perhaps if I had the help of cool and collected Dana Tulloch, my favorite recurring character in the Bolton novels, or the anticipation of sheltering in the arms of hunky Mark Joesbury (another fabulous recurring cast member in Bolton world), I could be a bit braver, a bit more like Lacey who faces her fears and runs headlong into them. But I prefer reading what this guilt-ridden, secretive, sensitive, and completely wonderful wonder woman faces off against, again and again, using brains, body, and intuition (hard-earned from her own hard knocks) to solve mysteries and save lives.

This time the mystery is manifold: Who is drowning these young women, where did the women come from, who (or what?) is leaving threats (or promises?) on the deck of Lacey's houseboat, what is Mark Joesbury up to -- and does a mermaid really exist in the waters of the Thames?

Bolton once again treats her readers not only to a thrilling mystery but also to a fascinating landscape, this time set in and around the Thames, a murky, dirty, seething river that carries both the life and the history of London in its ebb and flow, leaving markers of the past to be deciphered and clues of the present to be found. Trust to Lacey to find the clues and also some deeper answers to questions not only of death -- why did these women have to die? -- but of life itself: how do we keep swimming, when the tide turns against us? Lacey knows -- and she shows us how.

Maybe I will go swimming this summer -- after all, Lacey's got my back.