Something in the Water – Catherine Steadman

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave? Wonder no longer. It takes an age. However long you think it takes, double that.

Erin and Mark are an outwardly content couple when they embark on their dream honeymoon in gorgeous Bora Bora. Erin is a documentary film maker & Mark is an investment banker. They are happy, just been married and ready to start a family of their own. When they find something in the water one day while scuba diving alone, everything changes & what they find triggers a sequence of events that leads to Erin, in the woods, delivering this opening line.

How did she get from suntanning in Bora Bora, to this:

I squatted down next to the body, wet leaves and mud malty underfoot, and I Googled how to bury a body. I Googled this on the body’s burner phone. If they do find the body … they won’t find the body … and manage to retrieve the data … they won’t retrieve the data … then this search history is going to make fantastic reading.

Erin takes us back three months, all the way to the beginning.

Something in the Water is not going to make any of my top lists but ultimately it was a fun read. So we can end on a high, let’s start with what I didn’t like about it.

The pacing was off. The novel starts out with this amazing first chapter. Erin is navigating her way around the disposal of a body that we have no idea how she came across. But then the story takes us back in time and the thrill that she wound so well into the first chapter completely disappears … and doesn’t return until about 40% of the way through the novel.

Instead of the suspense that was so desperately needed in the first half of the book, it felt more like Steadman was trying to hard to “fill in” parts of her story. She spent an entire chapter describing in great detail her flights from London to Bora Bora. The whole time, I kept thinking that these details would come back & become important, but as far as I could tell, they weren’t.

When I took writing in college, I learned that you don’t have to tell the reader everything that happens. For example, if your character wakes up in the morning, unless his actions are fundamentally important to the plot or character development, you can let your reader fill in the basic information. You don’t have to say he woke up and then went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, washed his hands, stood in front of the closet, chose an outfit, put the outfit on, went to the kitchen, poured water in the coffee maker…. etc.  Steadman often suffered from this over explaining, which slowed the novel down for me quite a bit.

But – when it was good, it was really good. Steadman has found her voice in Erin and it was incredibly easy to jump right into her mind. As a character, Erin is believable & engagingly flawed. She is not likable at all, but it works. Her decision making is faulty (at best) and I often wanted to scream through the book “what are you doing?!” But it never felt out of character for Erin to make these decisions. What perhaps most impressed me was how easy it was to believe her journey into becoming a criminal by the end of the story – like it was inside her the entire time & every decision she was forced to make just drew it out of her a little bit more.

I’m not going to say the ending was in any way groundbreaking (I kept waiting for one more twist) but it was definitely satisfying. It will answer all your questions and still leave the reader wondering if it is all truly over…

3.5 Spades

3.5 spades

 

Something in the Water is currently scheduled to be released on June 5, 2018. Any quotes above were taken from an advanced reader copy and are subject to change. Thank you to the publisher & NetGalley for providing this ARC in return for my honest opinion. 

 

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