Black Coral by Andrew Mayne

Black Coral by Andrew Mayne
Underwater Investigation Unit Book 2
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Sloan McPherson and the Underwater Investigation Unit have discovered a van at the bottom of a murky Florida pond. Sealed inside the watery tomb are the bodies of four teenagers who disappeared thirty years ago after leaving a rock concert. To authorities, it looks like a tragic accident. To Sloan, it looks like murder. Every piece of evidence is starting to connect to a string of cold case vanishings throughout Florida. Clue by clue, Sloan navigates the warm, dark waters where natural predators feed, knowing that the most dangerous one is still above the surface—nesting and dormant.
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But when a fresh young kill is found in the Everglades, Sloan fears that her investigation has reawakened a monster. How can she catch someone who’s a genius at hiding in plain sight? By acting as prey. The dangerous gambit is working—only too well. She’s being lured into a deception of the madman’s own design. Has Sloan set a trap for a serial killer? Or has he set one for her?

She wasn’t in the water for this, but when Sloan McPherson discovers a van at the bottom of Pond 65, she knows there’s more to it than just an abandonment. When the bodies of four missing teens are found inside, she begins to wonder if it’s murder. What she doesn’t realize is that the killer might still be out there, tracking and killing those who least expect it. What’s the Underwater Investigation Unit going to do? Hand over the case or investigate it themselves?

Sloan McPherson is one of the most self-aware characters I’ve come across. She does stupid things and while she sometimes blames it on her pirate father, she almost always owns up to her idiocy. I adore this, because it means that she has the potential to not make those mistakes again. Her relationship with her daughter, Jackie, is great as well. She tries to be the best mom she can, even when she flops, and I think Jackie knows it, too. Overall, Sloan is tough, smart, and willing to take chances, even if they’re going to get her into trouble in the long run. She makes for an interesting and complex character and is the reason why I was so eager to get my hands on this book.

In this novel, Sloan gets a new partner named Scott Hughes. I always worry when a new person is introduced because they either suddenly become a love interest or an antagonist. Thankfully, Hughes is neither. He’s former Navy who came from another department to join the UIU with Sloan and George Solar, their boss. He’s funny, he’s smart, and he’s very loyal to Sloan and her case. I’d almost want to see them become love interests but the fact that Hughes is happily married, and Sloan is happily… something… with Run gives me reason to be content with them just being work buddies. However, they have a great chemistry and I loved how they worked together.

The uniqueness of an Underwater Investigation Unit is what initially drew me to this series. Growing up in the desert, the Everglades, ponds, and canals of Florida are something I know nothing about. Never mind the gators! Also, the team of Sloan and George, now featuring Scott Hughes, is great. They have a wonderful working relationship, even if Sloan was wary of him at first. Engrossing, complicated cases mixed with an intriguing cast of characters and I’m sold. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting to see where the UIU goes next.

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