Anya Crichton is a forensic physician who, after the harrowing events depicted in the previous novel of the series, is treated to a cruise with her young son and ex-husband Martin. But when the body of a teenage girl is found on deck one morning Anya can’t help but become involved in discovering what happened. It soon becomes clear that the cruise line allows a culture of rampant drug and alcohol use and sexual assault to thrive. And if that weren’t bad enough Anya doesn’t know who to trust amongst the ship’s crew; at least some of whom appear to be willing to go to any lengths to cover up the problems being experienced on board.
Of late all the books I’m reading seem to be exposing uncomfortable truths to some aspect of modern life and COLD GRAVE is no exception. In a broad context it provides squirm-inducing food for thought regarding the impact that the cruising industry has on the environment, the local economies in places the ships visit and the conditions of people employed to work in the floating cities. For the most part these insights are woven into the plot with skill, so that the reader doesn’t notice at first that there is a lesson or two to be learned until said reader is feeling guilty at her own ignorance of the impact she had during the one cruise she ever took.
The meatier part of the story doesn’t shy away from telling some home truths either. It would be nice to imagine that the case of a young girl’s senseless and preventable death as described in COLD GRAVE is purely the product of Fox’s imagination. But I’m fairly sure at least some inspiration must have been drawn from the high profile cases of cruise ship assaults and death that have hit the news headlines here in recent years which makes the blasé attitude some characters show for other people’s safety (and ultimately their death) quite confronting.
Although perhaps drawing on real inspiration Fox has used her creative skills to provide a multi-threaded, thoroughly entertaining and engaging story that doesn’t have a single slow spot in its 340 pages. From the way that Anya, and Martin who is a former Emergency Department nurse, become involved in the case of the girl’s death at the very beginning of the novel the entire thing has a ring of authenticity which helped make it genuinely unputdownable for me. For once Anya’s personal and professional lives don’t clash too much and there is a nice mixture of the two to round out this thought-provoking and entertaining novel.
My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Length: 337 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought it
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