The Fiction Fox
Review: Dead Water - C.A. Fletcher
Published: Little Brown/Orbit UK, July 21st 2022
My Rating: 1.5/5 stars
From the author of the beloved dystopian novel A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World comes a new, folklore inspired horror story, that unfortunately left me as cold and dead as the waters it centres on...
A water-borne blight hits an isolated community on a remote island on the edge of the Northern Atlantic. When ferry-services fail and all contact with the mainland is lost, a sense of paranoia and claustrophobia sets in. what is this strange affliction that is picking their community apart from the inside? Is it a biological illness, an ancient curse or something else entirely? And more importantly: can our cast of characters figure out the answers to these questions in time to escape this thread enclosing all around them?
What I liked:
On paper Dead Water had all the elements to be a new favourite. Isolated island setting: check. Folklore-inspired horror: check. Prioritising low-building psychological suspense over gore: double check. There’s even representation of a heroine with a physical disability and chronic pain, something I didn’t even know about before starting this read. There’s a nice sense of setting that is accentuated by the authors descriptive writing style.
Overall, here was the inspiration and set-up for a wonderful novel. Unfortunately that was all this story felt like to me: a set-up that asks a lot of investment from the reader, to ultimately never get completely off the ground.
What I didn’t like:
This books overall downfall was its pacing, that ranges from pedestrian at best, to glacial at its worst. It takes the story about until the 60% mark to really get to the advertised plot and suspense, which for a 500+ page novel is too much time to take for a “build up”. While I’m usually all about the slow burning stories, I actually found myself bored and unmotivated to pick the book back up. My thoughts began to drift whilst reading and my investment in the characters and the mystery dwindled the further I got. Even the atmospheric descriptions I loved to start with became repetitive over time: there’s only so many times you can read about ravens before feeling like you get the point by now.
Still, I was hoping for a phenomenal ending to make it worth the investment. Unfortunately; the ending was even less to my liking.
At about the 90% mark, the story start to pick up in pace, feeling very unbalanced when compared to everything before it. We end with a reveal that is a (admittedly quite cool) twist on a familiar trope, followed by a deus-ex-machina solution that felt like the author didn’t know how else to get their characters out of this mess.
Considering this author’s talent for creating atmosphere and the previous success of A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World, this story felt a few edits short of the version it could have been.
Many thanks to Little Brown Book Group & Orbit UK for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Find this book on Goodreads here.