Review: Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes
My expectations of thrillers and mysteries are pretty simple: intriguing characters, both good and bad, a mystery that tantalizes but isn't resolved until the end, clever language and a setting that's a bit real or surreal. This is not all that unreasonable.
I received an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Haynes second novel Dark Tide. Eagerly, I opened it and dug into it with these expectations, as the summary promised all of this and more.
Dark Tide will hit the racks and e-readers March 12. I am glad I did not pay for the book as it would have felt like I'd not spent my money wisely. With that said, for me to have a copy from the library would be a reasonable way to access the book.
The characters did not intrigue me in any way.
Genevieve, the central character, at best made me yawn and mostly irritated me. She's highly successful in sales at her London-based job but hates the work. Since she was a child she has dreamed of living on a houseboat–living on it and refurbishing and repairing it to her liking. This takes money, a lot of it.
She finds a way to earn large sums in a relatively short time doing pole dancing, private lap dancing and chatting up customers at an exclusive gentlemen's club on the weekends. With that, comes the darker side of life which she believed she held herself apart from. Money flows, she quits both jobs with rancor from her employers, buys her boat and proceeds to live her dream. But, a dark tide follows her. She meets another guy, not the guy she truly loves, but there's an undeniable attraction.
And then, as though there was some kind of magnetic field pulling him back, he kissed me again, his arm around me, his hand in my hair. I could feel how hard he was. For a moment I thought, Is he going to want to stay? Are we going to have sex? Is that what I'm hoping for? And then he pulled away from me again, right away this time. He backed off and leaned against the dinette.
The other main characters, nearly all male, are flat as a punctured tired. They don't roll with any realism.
None are especially good, most are exceptionally nasty and soulless, and read as generically "bad." Genevieve, whose known as either Gen in everyday life or Viva in her exotic venue, has a relationship with all of them. With two of them, it's just sexual, with one it's love. Genevieve's relationships with the first two boils down to what and how they can use her for their own needs and benefit.
He stood up, between me and the door. I waited. He was buzzing; he could hardly keep still. I wondered what he had taken.
“I was thinking,” he said, taking a step toward me and running a finger quickly up my arm, “about our discussion the other day.”
“You want to hang around for a while?”
“The guys will be going soon. You could stay. We could – er – have some fun. What do you think?”
That sums up the nature of most of the men she comes in contact with in the novel. There are a couple who aren't of that shady ilk but they're not especially complex either, just better generic characters.
The mystery did not tantalize or keep me on the edge of my seat.
Said mysterious element went on and on and on some more. A package has been secreted away on Gen aka Viva's boat with the promise that she would guard it for the one guy she loves. This turned out to be a mystery not even worth solving. It made little sense and never enhanced atmosphere or created intrigue as a good mystery should.
I looked in the bag and saw what it contained. A rectangular package, wrapped in a heavy-duty gray plastic bag and bound tightly and neatly with black electrical tape. A small black cell phone, new, and a charger. And two thick bundles of fifty-pound notes. I'd never seen so much cash in my life but even then I stared at it with no emotion.
The setting's the best part of Dark Tide.
Genevieve buys Revenge of the Tide, moors it in a marina where she settles into her new life. Her daily interactions with fellow boat owners, the descriptions of life on the water, the sounds of water lapping against the side of her boat, the beautiful night sky – all make for some nice descriptive writing.
I turned the radio off and the quiet was like a blanket that descended on the boat. Just the tickling of the rain on the roof of the cabin, on the skylights.
On the subject of writing, Haynes cleverly switches from what's occurring presently to flashbacks to the past that brought Genevieve to where she is. It's done with smooth transitions from present, to past and back again in a way that works beautifully. I generally do not like this style as it can feel jarring or stilted. In Dark Tide it's done with such skill and finesse that the flashbacks enhance the quality of the story. It also gives excellent insight into motivation.
I finished the book quickly and marginally enjoyed it but would not call it a great read nor would I pass it on to friends as recommended reading. Although it held my interest while I read it, what's most memorable about Dark Tide is how profoundly unremarkable it is.
Disclosure: Received for review from Harper Paperbacks.