Book Review

Dead Water

Dead Water

  • Author: C.A. Fletcher
  • Genre: Horror
  • Publication Date: July 19, 2022
  • Publisher: Redhook

Thank you to Redhook for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

CONTENT WARNING: death of a parent (off-page), gore, suicide, death of a child, grief, trauma, violence, mention of miscarriage

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A chilling blend of folk horror and twisting suspense, Dead Water is a modern masterpiece of isolation and dread within a small island community that will linger with you long after the final page.

On the edge of the North Atlantic lies a remote Scottish isle. The residents are a mix of those born and bred on the land and newcomers seeking a slower, quieter way of life, away from the modern world. But all have their own secrets, some much darker than others. And when a strange waterborne blight begins to infect them all, those secrets come to light.

Ferry service fails. Phone towers go down. And slowly, inconvenience transforms into nightmarish ordeal—and the outwardly harmonious fabric of the community is irreversibly torn apart.

I have a few confessions to make before starting my review. First of all, I know I often loudly proclaim that I absolutely do not read horror, but this one definitely came across more as what I like to think of as “horror lite.” It was delightfully “creeptastic,” as I described it to a friend, and while it was more spooky and creepy, it wasn’t the kind of horror that is going to keep me from sleeping at night, and peering around dark corners of my house, petrified for my life, much like Fletcher’s other book (A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World). Second of all, as someone who values alone time and lives very close to a metropolitan area, I’ve absolutely dreamed of picking up and moving to an isolated island in the middle of nowhere. After reading this book, I’ve reevaluated that dream, and will most likely not be fantasizing about that in the near future.

The pace is admittedly extremely slow-burn for the first half of the book. It gave me time to familiarize myself with the people who were on the island, and the third-person narrative allowed me to get to know not only who these people were and what they were going through, but what they were all thinking and feeling. I liked it, and despite the fact that there was a pretty wide range of characters introduced, it never felt overwhelming. It also provided room for me to get to know which of the characters would be main characters in this narrative, some of whom I definitely liked more than others. Not all of the characters are what I’d call “good guys,” and every single one of our characters is complex and flawed in different ways. As always, they’re each keeping secrets, and it’s part of what continually draws me into the small town dynamic—my curiosity about what people are hiding from the people they come into contact with every day. 

There are also some flashbacks interspersed, which play a major role in explaining how the current situation has developed and why. I found them to be intriguing, and loved the way everything came full circle by the ending. 

Throughout the story, there’s a building of tension. The elements of weather and loss of ability to communicate with the outside world only serve to further the sense of isolation that increases throughout the story, which leads to the need for various people to work through their individual differences and cooperate in order to survive. There’s action once you hit the midpoint of the novel, and after that it was nonstop. I found myself unable to put the book down until I reached the finish, and felt completely satisfied, if more than a little unnerved by the ending. 

One of the things that I especially appreciated about this novel is that there were several prominent characters with disabilities. One has a mobility issue, another is in a wheelchair, and two are hearing impaired, although the ways that they have adapted and coped with their disabilities are front and center in this story. There aren’t any magical fixes, and it doesn’t render them powerless or superhuman, they’re just ordinary people placed in difficult situations, and they function as best they can. 

As my first foray into folk horror, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it, although I am definitely a bit off-center today and probably won’t be delving too much further into the genre simply because I’m a wuss who enjoys sleep more than being scared out of my mind, if that makes any sense. However, this book was more creepy and suspenseful, rather than being overly scary, and I can confidently say that I fully loved this book and will be recommending it to all my horror-loving friends (and a few who may be on the fence about horror, like myself).

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 9

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