This is a fabulous, fast-paced novel that centres around Sikh Detective Constable, Alisha Barba who, having recovered from the shocking injury she incurred in Robotham’s earlier book, Lost, is at a professional loose end. Briefly reuniting with her best friend from childhood, Cate, after receiving an ambiguous letter, the chance to discuss what drove a wedge between them is taken away when Cate, who is pregnant, is severely injured in a hit and run. Recognizing someone at the scene of the crime, the intrepid Barba determines to discover who’s responsible for hurting her friend. But, as the body count of those associated with Cate and the case starts to rise, what Barba uncovers is a plot involving human traffickers, forced surrogacy and the most shocking abuses of human rights.
‘Trust no-one’ could be the tag line for this book as Barba relentlessly pursues her quarry and, in the process, risks everything for her best friend: her career, her lover and even her life.
I really enjoyed getting to know Barba in more depth in this novel. Conflicted, honest, brave and not afraid to take risks or invest in others (eventually!) she is a joy to get to know. Though her family feature as minor characters, they bring light relief to an otherwise dark tale and the interactions between them are real and display the deep fondness that families, even dysfunctional ones, enjoy. That Vincent Ruiz also returns was a bonus. Seeing him through yet another character’s eyes (other than Joe’s) also gave him additional depths and enhanced his already admirable qualities.
I love the way Robotham writes. Whether it’s his pithy one-liners (when describing young people defacing a wall, he writes they were ‘practicing their literacy skills’) or the poignant insights he offers into prostitution, parenthood or the complex relationships we form with family, friends, and others we love and loathe, there is such beauty and elegance to his writing. Robotham is capable of poetic prose, sharp, moody scenes and positively heart-wrenching moments as well. His descriptions of Amsterdam were wonderful. The canals, the red light district and the cobbled streets were brought to life. Equally, however, Robotham captures the horror of confinement, the agony of displacement and loss, of being always “Othered”, and the physical and emotional roller coaster of childbirth. This book segues from making the reader feel assured to placing us, through the characters, in situations where we lose our equilibrium and you have to keep reading in order to regain footing. Reading The Night Ferry is, like all Robotham books, an utterly thrilling experience.