Dead Tide

By Fiona McIntosh

Publisher/Year: Penguin Michael Joseph/2023

Publisher’s blurb

Newly promoted Superintendent Jack Hawksworth has headed up three major serial operations in England and in each of these cases he has lost a part of himself. While on sabbatical as guest lecturer in a London university, one of his students dies under highly suspicious circumstances, and he finds himself drawn into a chilling new case that reaches across the world.

Jack’s investigation leads him to Adelaide where he identifies a cynical international crime consortium that preys on the anguish of childless couples and vulnerable women. Together with local major crime officers, he follows his leads to the windswept Yorke Peninsula, and becomes caught up in an intoxicating private drama. With his personal and professional business entangled once again, Jack must put his own life on the line to bring justice to those who are grieving.

Reviewer: Lesley Vick

Jack Hawksworth is recovering from injuries he received in an earlier case and working as a guest lecturer in the UK. He is shocked when one of his students dies suddenly. Then it appears that some other young women are also returning home ill or dying after travelling in Europe. Jack is driven to uncover the cause of these suspicious deaths and illnesses which seem to be connected to botched medical procedures, and he persuades his police superiors to let him investigate.

Jack follows the trail of evidence to Adelaide where those behind the trade are located and where most of the story is set. In cooperation with the local police, Jack works undercover to investigate the black-market operation. The international trade in reproductive material (or human biomaterials) is extremely lucrative. The ruthless people plying this trade take advantage of people at both ends of the system – vulnerable women needing money and having their eggs harvested for sale and couples desperate to have a child. Jack’s undercover enquiry entails many risks – remembering who was told what and the potential threat from dangerous people wanting to protect their illegal trade.

As he has done before, Jack lets his personal feelings intervene which adds to the complexity of his situation. He is an interesting and appealing character and his observations about Australia are very entertaining. Unusually for an Englishman, he is a coffee snob as well!

Greed and corruption are central to the story line which also exposes the ethical dilemmas involved in the trade of human biomaterials and the inevitable conflict between ends and means. Dead Tide is well researched and the technical details about the acquisition of reproductive materials, the mode of transport and delivery to the ultimate user are easy to understand. Readers unfamiliar with Fiona McIntosh will certainly be encouraged to seek out her other novels after reading Dead Tide.

McIntosh’s sense of place through her evocative descriptions of the Yorke Peninsula (which she clearly knows well) will enhance the area’s appeal as a tourist destination.