Something in the Water
by Catherine Steadman
It is sometimes worth it to follow the hype and jump blindly into the first work of an author. I’m so glad I decided to try Something in the Water. From the get go, the book grabs you. It opens on a very satisfying Gothic scene: a woman is digging a grave to bury a man.
Of course, we don’t know the reason nor the nature of their relationship. Who is he? Did she kill him?
Then we go back in time to when she first met a man called Mark, who became her husband.
Mark has a stressful job in banking. Difficult developments create some uncomfortable and unexpected mood changes in him. As for his wife Erin, the narrator, she makes documentaries. Right now, she’s in the process of a very special one: a documentary about three soon to be released prisoners. She wants to “chart their hopes and dreams about their freedom before and after release”. One of the three is Eddie, an important name in British crime history. The two other prisoners are women.
The unnerving thing is, Eddie seems to know more about her life that she does about his! How come he knows so many private details about her life, her upcoming marriage, and then the place of their honeymoon?
The beginning of the book alternates between Mark and Erin’s life, and about the 3 prisoners Erin is interviewing for her documentary. Then there’s a pause on the filming as the newly weds go for their honeymoon to Bora Bora.
As they go diving one day after a major storm, Mark is a qualified diver, they find something mysterious in the water. What should they do with it? Should they give it to the resort people, to the police? Succumbing to curiosity, after a few too many drinks, they open up the thing to see what’s in it.
And then their life will never be the same.
I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and how the story was built. Mystery can be the perfect genre to address some essential issues, here mainly, how one small decision in your life can generate many consequences, and what you will need to do and say or invent all along to adjust.
You may start as a “normal person”, but from that small decision, who knows where and how you will end up? What will the spiral lead you to? And if your life environment is fragile and difficult, you may have a hard time in the first place to discern about that very first decision. Should you do this or that?
On top of it all, Erin and Mark find themselves swimming with unknown forces. The chain of events they unleashed could end up being very dangerous, way above their heads.
I could qualify the mystery as a moral tale. As in real life, things are hardly ever all black and white. It was really neat to read a mystery with such depth, and I’m looking forward to more books by this new author. I have seen readers describing it as a beach read. That’s the type of expression that would make me run away from a book. With all the important issues at stake, I would not qualify it as a beach read. Unless you like your beach reads to be about important life issues.
The ambiance was deliciously claustrophobic at times, I don’t like much water, so that probably helped (!), and the suspense was so well built that you never know how reliable or unreliable all the characters are.
VERDICT: With her fantastic first book, Steadman proves that mystery can be the perfect genre to address essential life issues. So well done!