The stark beauty of William Shaw’s Salt Lane


Most good crime fiction is location rich, the authors giving us insight into the workings of a particular place, be it city or countryside. In Salt Lane, author William Shaw gifts us with the backdrop of almost alien Dungeness, on the Kent coast, to where protagonist Alex Cupidi and her daughter, Zoe, have relocated from London.

It’s an interesting place to set a book, a headland where the world almost seems to end, the looming power station casting long shadows over the stretch of shingle beach, which somewhat bizarrely also is of great ecological importance. Here, flora and fauna abound and the birds, which solitary Zoe watches with such intent, flourish due to the warmer waters caused by the station’s outflow, wheeling over towns, long forgotten, that lie submerged beneath the waves.

Salt Lane finds Cupidi, previously introduced to readers in The Birdwatcher, taking the main stage. After an affair with a married colleague, she decides on a fresh start, moving from the London Met to work with the local police in the Kent countryside. As she and Zoe fight to find their footing – with each other as well as their new setting – at work, Cupidi is embroiled in two shocking murders, one involving a mysterious woman, the other an illegal immigrant from North Africa.

The subsequent investigations raise issues important to 21st-century Brexit Britain – immigration, racism, sexism, poverty, inequality – issues that also throw all kinds of problems in the way of Cupidi and sidekick Constable Ferriter solving their cases, as they struggle to find any information on the victims who, for quite different reasons, existed beneath the radar.

An atmospheric, well-paced novel, Salt Lane is a great introduction to Alex Cupidi and her world. It is very readable – Shaw’s evocation of setting, one which we know well, making it particularly attractive to audiences.

We look forward to following Cupidi’s journey in future titles.


Salt Lane | William Shaw |  Riverrun | 3 May 2018 | hardback | £16.99


Music to read to: ‘Redemption Song‘, Bob Marley; ‘Broken English’, Marianne Faithfull (Dungeness-based filmmaker/artist Derek Jarman shot the film); ‘This mess we’re in‘, PJ Harvey, featuring Thom Yorke.


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the Salt Lane book blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater for organising it and to the publisher for supplying a proof copy and the cover image above. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.


Also of interest:The Things You Didn’t See – Ruth Dugdall; ‘Johana Gustawsson’s Keeper –indie publisher, Orenda, does it again‘; ‘Elder’s last stand – John Harvey’s Body and Soul;Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir’; We should all be feminists’;  ‘Claire Kittridge on what it is about London – writers on location’; ‘The beauty of Sarah Taylor’s The Shore; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.


This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.