Review: Dead in the Water

Along with fearless friends DeAnna Knippling and Shannon Lawrence, I am making my way through “Nightmare Magazine’s Top 100 Horror Books.”

My latest read was Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder, published in 1994.

After reading this book, my resolve to never, ever step foot on a cruise ship has been cemented into reality. Nope. Not doing it.

For me, this ranks as one of the very scariest books on this list, so far.

The book opens with “This is how it will be when you drown:…” and by the end of the book, you’ve forgotten that there are other ways to die. Your brain is whipped, has been untangled and reraveled, so that you believe the only way anyone ever dies is by drowning.

As we meet the characters taking a freighter/cruise ship to Hawaii, they’re drawn in bold strokes. Caricatures and stereotypes, the tough female cop who is fighting against falling for her partner, the dying boy with his weepy physician father, the old woman who has lost her husband, and the constantly bickering rich couple. You probably formed a mental image of each of them as you read.

But then you learn more about them. Not that you’re going to love, or even like, all of them. But you get to know the people behind the facades. Not that weepy dad ever stops weeping, or dying boy stops having cancer, or rich couple ever stops bickering. But they become more rounded. Bloated by being in the water too long?

As the tale is told, reality becomes unstrung. You learn the truth ahead of the characters, but only just. It’s not a big, splashy book. But I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

DeAnna would want to know why I was scared, because the Big Bad is both seen and not seen, defined and yet left without any definite edges at the end of the book. I would say my preference would be to assume the depths of the oceans are filled with monsters, and not the bones of the dead waiting to devour my brain as they drag me down.

If you ever want to know how many different ways you can describe drowning, just read this book. But maybe not at night. It will leave you afraid to even wash your face in the bathroom sink.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Review: Dead in the Water

  1. This book had two issues for me:

    1) I didn’t like the characters or style, I just kept hearing “blah blah blah” in my head.

    2) Freaking crap coming up to get you from the water. EEEE.

    I was bored yet scared. “Just kill them off already!” But it was one of the few times that I’ve been the second person work–that intro was *wonderful.*

  2. I did like how the book opened. Fantastic opening line, and way to drag the reader into peril.

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