Sloan McPherson, an officer with Florida’s Underwater Investigation Unit, is called for a routine recovery. A car went into a body of water known as Pond 65. One man was rescued, the other is presumed to be dead and inside the vehicle. She’ll have to bring the body to the surface while avoiding the large jaws of Big Bill, an alligator 13 feet long and weighing a thousand pounds. With deputies tossing raw chickens into another part of the pond, Sloan manages to complete her mission and get out unscathed. But she finds more than she bargained for – a van with the bodies of four teenagers who went missing 30 years ago.
While law enforcement is eager to declare that the young people perished when the driver, probably high on drugs, accidentally drove into the pond, Sloan disagrees. Subsequent dives bring up evidence that the two women were raped and the two men murdered. And when another body is discovered, Sloan realizes she’s on the trail of a serial killer who has been operating for three decades.
Andrew Mayne’s Black Coral is the second in his series featuring the crime busting mermaid, Sloan, who is more comfortable underwater than on dry land. While Sloan holds her breath when diving, readers hold their breath hoping she survives. (Anyone who is claustrophobic should take note.) The case takes on added importance with Sloan’s UIU facing extinction unless the agents can prove their usefulness. Sloan’s boss, George Solar, supports Sloan’s intention to nab the serial killer, but he also needs help with the so-called New River Bandits who are looting luxury yachts along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Sloan’s theory, that the serial killer has been using the Everglades to dump bodies, takes her and the other agents on a risky mission inside the treacherous waters of Florida’s famous swamp. A deep dive produces more evidence than even Sloan imagined and the hunt is on.
Mayne has created a fascinating character in Sloan. In this second outing, he fills in some of the background information missing in the debut mystery, The Girl Beneath the Sea. Sloan’s boyfriend, Run, and their daughter, Jackie, return, and their relationships are more fleshed out. A new agent, Scott Hughes, a former navy diver who also worked for the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, joins the team. Hughes may have been military, but he can’t hold water to Sloan’s experience, confidence, and sheer fearlessness when it comes to facing down predators, whether humans or reptiles. She was trained by her father, a famous and infamous pirate who made his living trolling the seas for treasure. Now Sloan uses those skills to hunt down criminals.
In Black Coral, however, Sloan must use her mental and physical abilities out of the water, the final battle occurring on dry land. She nabs the killer and saves, not only future victims, but the future of UIU, which means that book three in the series can be expected soon.