Despite their estrangement, and the fact that he’s on the other side of the planet, when pro surfer Dave Tregenza gets a bad feeling about his brother he doesn’t hesitate, catching the next plane to England. Once there, though, the urgency has died down, and it takes Dave some time to summon the determination to return to the small Cornish village where he and Jonny were raised by their aunt Frances after the accidental death of their parents. So it’s several days after Jonny’s disappearance that Dave reappears, almost as unexpectedly as he left, to discover that the woman he loved – his pregnant sister-in-law, twins in tow – is distraught over the unexpected disappearance of her husband.
DCI Channon isn’t convinced that Jonny Tregenza is dead, though there seems little evidence supporting his leaving of his own volition. But it’s not until the discovery, in rapid succession, of two bodies, that the inquiry gets any real official attention, and that only because of possible terrorist connections. That is, until a third murder occurs.
I was very taken with Etchell’s first DCI Channon mystery, No Corner for the Devil, and had hoped that Footprint of the Devil would pick up the budding relationship started there. But the focus is on puzzling out the reason for Dave’s murder and, of course, the perpetrator, with only one reference to Sally Baxter.
Etchells does do a lovely job of combining location, mystery and character development, particularly the tensions between Dave and Frances, who’s once again faced with the possibility of having to raise children who are not hers. There are also some engaging scenes between police officers with opposing interests and agendas (that reminded me of my own, quite different, interactions with my more Gen Y colleagues), and a meticulous portrayal of village life. The ending is fairly satisfying, and even ties up a couple of ends that I didn’t realise until quite far through were loose. - Alex