When the Tide Turned (Book II in the Mysterious Marsh series)
by M.L. Eaton
Attorney Hazel Dawkins has recently given birth to baby Jessica and after seven weeks is asked to fill in, temporarily, at her previous firm while one of the partners takes leave. Though reluctant at first—she is beyond exhausted—she eventually agrees, noting to herself that the money would indeed come in handy, and being able to take Jessica with each day is a supreme advantage. But when strange events and an aggressive client impede on her work, Hazel sets out to sort through it all, only to discover one mystery after another, leading from one dark place to the next.
Set mostly in 1970s Rye, an historic area known as part of the ancient Cinque Ports, at a time when women lawyers were still a bit of a curiosity, When the Tide Turned is liberally sprinkled with what I now, having read this author before, would call Eaton’s trademark imagery, beautifully brimming with words that make you want to read them again, envisioning, breathing in, surrounded by the scenes she describes.
Romney Marsh: a wondrous place where sky, land and sea met in a glorious pageantry of colour. Above the flat land, uncluttered with buildings and trees, the swirl of wind current painted ever-changing cloudscapes in the sky; sun and shadows reflected across meadows of green divided by still, dark dykes edged with rushes and the lace of meadowsweet.
So reads one passage from the novel, a mystery involving events and dark forces spanning two centuries and a painting related to Napoleon’s planned invasion of England. The author also occasionally adds in physical and historical descriptions of the area in which Dawkins lives, sometimes via her reminiscing. In this manner we learn background information and how characters come to be where they now are. Hazel is also subject to strange visions in which she sees people and places, unexplainable events that occur, which begin to bear remarkable—and eerie—similarities to actual events unfolding in her daily life. We see rather quickly, too, a dark force beginning to overshadow her family’s lives, even replacing the benign presence she had become aware of when they’d first moved in to their cottage home.
The mystery initially begins to reveal its nature when a client, Mr. Harris, demands documentation to secure the provenance of a painting. His erratic behavior attracts Hazel’s suspicions and events around the office—too bizarre to ignore—link to the dreams and visions she soon begins to piece together.
Eaton very early on had my full attention, partly because I sought out the afore-mentioned imagery I knew she would likely write into the story, and here she does not disappoint.
[Rype] had escaped the modernisation that had blighted similar town in the nineteen sixties and early seventies, clinging to its Englishness in the same way that honeysuckle and climbing roses embraced the half-timbered buildings along its High Street.
Additionally, Hazel Dawkins is easy to like, and her preparation for the temporary assignment begins very soon after the start of her tale, holding both the magnificent ordinary—her journey into marriage and motherhood—as well as brilliant narrative and conversation on the surroundings and its history filled with ghosts, Viking diet, land reclamation and old pirate bands, all without the slow start many otherwise brilliant works suffer from.
Eaton also lures us in with etymology of place names and keeps us moving with the tide—frantically turning the pages—as Hazel herself tries to figure out exactly what is going on. Like the Shakespearean “tide on the affairs of men” quoted in the epigraph, “On such a full sea are we now afloat,” there is a distinct urgency on part of reader as well as protagonist, to avoid loss of venture.
One morning, in preparation for a visit from Mr. Harris, who had insisted he see Hazel at that time, she visits the strongroom in order to find previous documents and their file, only to be locked in after a good shove has sent her reeling farther in the enclosed space. As she gets her bearings on the situation she now finds herself in, she assesses her prison:
Sudden panic threatened to overwhelm me. The strongroom had been built to protect the deeds against fire as well as theft. How much air was there in this vault? How long could I survive in here? Worse, how long could Jessica survive? Although the day outside was warm and sunny, here in the vault it was dank and cold. I was already beginning to shiver.
Eaton’s storytelling via Hazel is so gripping that readers will remember how the author sets up this scenario with a description of exactly how enclosed Hazel would be.
The strongroom was situated at the other end of the building. It had originally been a store burrowed into the side of the hill on which the building stood, a little way down from the summit. At some stage it had been transformed into a strongroom, lined with steel and sealed by a heavy steel door that boasted a huge iron lock.
When we first read it at the start of this scene, it is a mere description; now it has transformed into a dark cloud no one knows about. This frightening event is not too far into the story, and its result is a sort of reader skittishness: I personally didn’t want any part of this vault. Each time it subsequently comes up as a real destination or even hint I found myself becoming nervous, not wanting Hazel to go near it, until I finally realized, That is so previous chapter! Indeed, Eaton doesn’t need to rely on repetitious maneuvers to thrill, for she has plenty of intrigue up her sleeve, rendering readers only too happy to let their dinner burn.
Certainly we could easily forget the rest of the world as we follow Hazel through with her investigations into the odd behavior of her client, connections between painting and her visions, dark secrets linking past and present, where it all takes her and every facet of her life affected, including those who’ve intruded in upon it and will go to great lengths to stop her learning the truth. As she makes her way to startling discoveries, old and new, Eaton takes us through action and intrigue that rise like the tide of the title and epigraph, as we follow breathlessly behind, when there is so much at stake.
Quite simply this is an addicting read one will be unsurprised to learn is a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree. Moreover, it being the second in the Mysterious Marsh series, it goes without saying I shall be looking toward the opening novel without hesitation. I highly recommend readers do the same.
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. But Life intervened and I only managed to complete my first novel when I was over sixty.
My first career (as a lawyer) began in the nineteen seventies when there were very few women in the legal profession of England and Wales, and the dice tended to be loaded against them! My first small office on Romney Marsh eventually extended until, after a number of changes, amalgamations and growth it evolved into one of the top 100 legal firms in England and Wales.
My second career (in complementary health) began in 1994 when I qualified as a professional aromatherapist and also became a Usui Reiki Master Teacher. Over the years I have taught Reiki to hundreds of students. With my husband, also a lawyer, I ran a complementary health clinic in the Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex for several years.
All forms of holistic health interest me but it is energy healing, in all its various facets and forms, which I find most fascinating and from which I can never quite retire.
You can learn more about M.L. Eaton at her website or Amazon author page. Some of her other works include When the Clocks Stopped (B.R.A.G. Medallion Winner) and Norfolk Twilight, as well as The Elephants’ Child and The Lion Mountains, first and second in The Faraway Lands series. I am also pleased to announce that The Snaking River, latest in the series, is now available. All may be purchased at Amazon and Amazon UK.
Click here for my review of The Elephants’ Child.
When the Earth Cracked, third in Eaton’s Mysterious Marsh set, will launch in April.
A copy of When the Tide Turned was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.