The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

the night ferrySlave trade…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Alisha Barba is due to return to her job as a police officer after a long period of sick leave following a serious injury she received in the line of duty. Out of the blue she is contacted by an old friend, Cate Beaumont, who asks her to come to a reunion at their school. Ali and Cate had had a serious falling out eight years earlier which left Ali feeling guilty and sorry to have lost her closest friend, so she’s delighted to hear from Cate, and also intrigued to know what has inspired her to get in touch after all this time. They don’t get much chance to talk at the reunion, but heavily pregnant Cate takes the opportunity to whisper “They want to take my baby. They can’t. You have to stop them…” A few minutes later as they leave the reunion, Cate and her husband are run down by a taxi. Felix is killed outright and Cate’s life hangs in the balance…

Although this isn’t strictly part of the Joe O’Loughlin series since he isn’t in it, it links back to the previous books in that series. Ali had a smallish part in Lost, as a Detective Constable on DI Vincent Ruiz’ team. Ruiz has now retired but still acts as a mentor and friend to young Ali when she needs one. I love this way Robotham has of rotating the main viewpoint through the various characters. It keeps each book feeling fresh but gives the reader some points of reference so that it also has that comfortable feeling of familiarity that all good series give. And it also helps with one of the perennial problems of thrillerish crime series with only one central character – namely, that usually the reader knows that all must end reasonably well for the protagonist or the series would have to end.

The plot of this one is hard-hitting, involving illegal immigration, sex trafficking and forced commercial surrogacy. The official investigation is going too slowly for Ali’s liking so she begins to ask her own questions and the trail soon takes her to the sleaziest parts of Amsterdam. Her old friend Ruiz is on hand to give advice and assistance, and she has the support of her boyfriend Dave, also a police officer. Soon Ali is in trouble not just with the bad guys but with her superior officers back home, but she’s now too involved to pull back – too many lives are dependent on her, some of them very vulnerable. Robotham doesn’t hold back in the picture he gives of the exploitation of women trafficked as sex slaves from some of the war-torn places of the world and he has clearly done his research as thoroughly as always.

However, the grimness of the storyline is lifted by the characterisation of Ali. Although she’s following her own path in this case, she’s not a maverick, nor is she angst-ridden. She has a lovely, loving Sikh family who’d like to see her happily married, an appealing and supportive boyfriend in Dave, and as far as possible she works alongside her colleagues and keeps them informed of what she’s up to. She is a little bit Supergirlish on occasion but not enough to destroy her credibility. And her voice is very convincing – no mean feat for a male Australian author to get so authentically inside the head of a young British Sikh woman.

Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham

This is the fifth Michael Robotham book I’ve read and as far as I’m concerned the man can do no wrong. He can tell a gritty story without having to resort to excessive bad language or gratuitous violence – there is some strong violence in the book but not of the police beating up innocent bystanders variety. So often in thrillers the investigation element is weak and so the book loses credibility, but not here – the plotting is tight, there’s proper detective work and everything that happens is totally plausible. And both writing and characterisation are great, with just enough humour to give a touch of lightness to the otherwise dark plot. If only he could be persuaded to stop using the present tense – but at least he uses it well, and I suppose a girl can’t have everything in this life! If you haven’t already guessed, this one is highly recommended. As are all his others…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Mulholland Books.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

57 thoughts on “The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

  1. Honestly, FictionFan, it’s hard to go wrong with Robotham – it really is! And this is no different, in my opinion. I agree with you about Robotham’s way of rotating characters. It gives the reader such a great picture of life in Robotham’s London and among his characters. So glad you enjoyed this. I really am. But that said, I do wonder about the use of the present tense…

    • Yes, and I hear he’s just won the Golden Dagger! Well deserved! The rotating characters really add something I think, and he’s so good at making each of them sound completely authentic and very different from each other. But I really do hope this present tense fad dies out soon – it used to feel quite fresh when it only happened occasionally but now it feels so stale, and often clumsy.

  2. A present tense five smiley book! I’m astounded and surprised. And astounded.

    You make this one sounds very goodly good, indeed. And what an interest of a name, you must admit.

    He looks quite like a biker.

      • You were! But that means it must have been really, really well written. Five smiles don’t come easy, I say.

        You like that name? No you don’t. It’s just so odd.

        For the what? He’s looking spicy to me.

        • It is – did you hear he won a major prize yesterday? The CWA Gold Dagger award – probably the top crime fiction prize. Wasn’t it nice of them to time it to coincide with my review?

          *chuckles and preserves a discreet silence*

          Yeah, but you like facial hair… he’s got some way to go before he can compete with Mr Twain though!

          • That was! See. Just shows what a good reviewer you really are. Fantastic. Gold Dagger. I somehow envy him for that award…I can picture this thingy.

            Hey! That won’t save you. Let’s just say rotten things together.

            Oh, you have to admit a beard is cool. You’re just jealous you can’t grow one!

            • Awww, you’re so sweet! There’s another one called the Scarlet Stiletto Award where the trophy is actually a red shoe! But the Gold Dagger award actually is a dagger – you should start writing crime. *thinks about some of Ruber’s cooking and realises he already does…*

              Ok. Ready? One, two, three… “ROTTEN THINGS!”

              The reason women can’t grow beards is because we are more highly evolved than men… *tosses head haughtily*

            • *laughs* I don’t write crime crime, though. A golden dagger. I’d wear that all the time. Now, what a problem it would be if I won the red shoe. That’d be awful.

              *laughing* Somehow that’s cheating, though.

              If they were more highly evolved they wouldn’t be so funny looking, though.

            • I always think it’s a bit mean they don’t at least give them two shoes – imagine having to hop for the rest of your life!

              Isn’t it? *proud face*

              *gasps and stamps foot* Now look here, sir, I’ll have you know I’m cute and adorable, in certain lights! And so is the perky Princess in Enchanted. Of course, you’re right about the rest of womankind… *sniggers… but very attractively*

            • Well, only ladies would have that problem since only ladies would wear such a shoe! I’d probably give it to you. Or keep bugs in it.

              It is! Someone has to watch Enchanted tonight. That’ll be my revenge. Oh goodness! Just realized it is tonight there!

              Sniggers! That’s hilarious. You think Giselle is cute and adorable? Nah. The only cute and adorable things in this world are guitars. And maybe bald-faced hornets. I’m honest. They’re so cool looking.

            • *laughs* Please don’t put the bugs in before you give it to me then… *practices hopping*

              Awwww! And Timothy Spall too! Isn’t he great? He’s in the Harry Potter movies too…

              Oh, she is! Admittedly more than an hour in her company and I’d want to put a bag over her head, but still! *simpers* I’m so glad I look like a bald-faced hornet now!

            • *laughs* Promise I won’t do that. Though…it might be funny.

              Is Timothy Spall the fat one? I like him lots. I’m like him, too.

              You should be! You’re the pride of the bug kingdom. And you have such cool markings. Nice call, FEF.

            • Not so funny when I bash you over the head with the shoe, though, eh, sir???

              He is! You are not! You are like lovely Robert – a big soppy romantic at heart!

              *laughs* Thank you! I think!

            • *laughs* That part might not be so funny…but remember: no hitting!

              Maybe I’m like that other Prince chap. Now he was an interest.

              Definitely a compliment! I wish I was one.

            • *laughs* No hitting, but using Glocks is OK? Tchah! Americans!

              He was even soppier!! He was terribly handsome, though. But I prefer my men to have more than two working braincells, where possible…

              But can they play guitar?

            • *laughs* Relieved to hear it, sir!

              Simple like an amoeba who never went to school…

              No, you can’t be one then, I’m afraid. You could be a chimpanzee though – I bet they could play…

            • Well, people who #LoveGlocks are as unpredicatble as BUS, you know, you know… *trembles*

              *laughs too* Perhaps it was a little mean.

              *nods* That’s why shaving is so important…

            • *laughing* Well, of course, you’ve never met a responsible gun owner–and look at how you through BUS under the bus!

              It was definitely mean. That’s a good description for Schwarz.

              *laughs* You tricked me again.

            • I would not throw BUS under a bus! That could easily cause a traffic jam!

              *gasps* How dare you?! If I didn’t know that was just the jealousy talking, I’d be forced to beat you with a copy of David Copperfield…or worse, make you read it!

              *smiles proudly*

  3. I really must get around to Rowbotham – if he can make you praise a book written in the present tense, he must be good!
    The infection is still spreading though – I read one recently and I didn’t notice it until nearly the end – my brain is melting. 🙂

    • I know – I think I’ve just given up hoping the present tense thing will go away. I fear authors seem to be fatally drawn towards bandwagons…

      But I do think you might enjoy these books – at least he’s a good writer so can just about avoid the clunkiness of the tense.

  4. I love Robotham’s books – well, the ones I’ve read. I need to go back to the beginning because I’ve missed a few and, for me, that’s always a bad thing. I have not read Night Ferry yet. And did you know that Mr. Robotham won a big mystery award yesterday – The Gold Dagger – for Life and Death, which is set in my part of the world. Can’t wait to read it. I should just have a Robotham reading month. What do you think?

    • I heard that! Well deserved! Life or Death is great, more of an outright thriller than the Joe O’Loughlin series – which are more of a cross between crime and thrillers. I’ve still got a couple more to catch up with the series – I’ve been reading them all out of order, but they do work fine as standalones too. Haha! You should! I’ve got his new one to read too, so this’ll be a bit of a Robotham month for me too… 🙂

  5. Great book, FF. I’m actually analysing it as part of my PhD in Creative Writing on commercial surrogacy in fiction. And as a fan of Michael’s books (and Michael personally!), I was thrilled by his most deserved CWA Gold Dagger win this week.

    • I was thinking about that when I was reading it, and wondering if it was one you had chosen. It’s certainly a fascinating subject and to my uneducated mind it seemed as if he gave a very well researched and realistic picture of it. Will you be publishing your thesis?

    • You definitely do! They all work as standalones and of the ones I’ve read so far, this one might be a good one for you – I’m sure the subject matter would interest you. Thank you! 🙂

    • It’s such a variable genre – goes all the way from total rubbish to as good as lit-fic! This one isn’t quite as good as lit-fic in terms of the writing, but the plot is stronger than a lot of current lit-fic. Way above average for the genre! 🙂

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