Set in a gritty south English port city, Portsmouth, this police procedural is the first in the DI Joe Faraday series and introduces a lot of contrasts and characters.
The birds picking on the salt marshes include little turnstones, and Faraday likes to watch them from his house. However his son, deaf and in his early twenties, has decided to leave the simple life and move to France with some colourful friends. Feeling dumped, Faraday leaves his restrictive desk work and takes on some of the cases his hard-pressed staff don't have time for. Like an 8 year old girl who reported her father missing.
The main work is concerned with drug dealers, grasses, damaged cars and housebreakers. But Faraday doggedly works on the trail of the missing man, who was a keen yachtsman and had planned to sail on a major race which ran into severe storms. Some of his crew were drowned and the boat capsized. But with a broken arm, the missing man wasn't on board. So... where is he? Unfortunately we don't get much more of the little girl.
There are several links to other characters and the internal police enquiries start up after a drug dealer is shot and injured, but no drugs were found in his home. Another cop, Paul Winter, is out to gain any information he can, and doesn't care what happens to the informants. Some very good female police officers are also on the scene, being human, and nobody has any of the blackly awful pasts that are so fashionable now.
Many sides of Portsmouth, or Pompey, are shown and there are several more good books in the series before it gets too depressing with drug dealers taking over the city. I recommend starting here.