Lesley Thomson steps away from her wonderful Detective’s Daughter series to bring us a an equally compelling stand-alone mystery, Death of a Mermaid.

The mermaids in question are young women who all attended the same convent school in Newhaven. The women have varied relationships to Catholicism at the present time, but Thomson skillfully gives us chapters of their teen years so readers can see the entwined relationships between them.

Toni has become a police detective; Mags works in the local library. Karen runs a fish van that belongs to the Powers family, whose oldest child, daughter Freddy, left home decades years ago and has just returned when she learns of her mother’s terminal illness.

Freddy’s brothers, Andy and Ricky, run the Powers Fishery whose impact on the town is vast. It’s into this setting that Freddy returns and brings with her the impact of all the reasons why she left.

Then one of the mermaids is killed, another young person dies, and while Toni handles those cases, her investigation is hampered by the fact Ricky is her boyfriend.

Thomson imbues the setting, both past and present, with descriptions that utilize all the senses, bring the reader right into the church, the homes, and the fishery. There will be storms, secrets buried that resurface, and social issues that Thomson faces directly.

All of the characters are well-drawn, from their emotions to their quirks. Auntie M loves books where she learns something, and readers will learn about the fishing industry, too, in a way that’s built into the plot.

At the heart, this mystery is propelled by the short, tense chapters, by Thomson’s wonderful use of language and compelling characters, and by the sense of betrayal that haunts the entire story. Highly recommended.