“Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman opens with the narrator, Erin Locke, speaking directly to the reader.
“Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave? Wonder no longer. It takes an age.”
Then we learn about the body. “I wonder if he’s still warm. My husband.”
How did Erin get there? Burying her husband? Readers are compelled to read and find out. “And to explain I need to go back.”
Erin is a documentary filmmaker engaged to be married to Mark in a few weeks. Her documentary will follow three different prisoners during and after incarceration, charting their hopes and dreams about freedom. She conducts the preliminary interviews, and then jets off to her honeymoon. While there, she and Mark, an experienced diver, explore the majestic blue waters near their Bora Bora resort. It is then that they see something in the water. What is it? Paper? Flotsam? Jetsam?” And nothing will ever be the same again.
Erin guides readers through her life from July 8 to October 3. Her first person narrative has the rhythm and cadence of conversation, and she adds history to give readers a sense of time and place. Her tone is friendly and casual, as if she and the reader are just two friends talking over coffee and lunch. “You might not know it but … Don’t get me wrong… So here’s a math problem for you… And you know what happens next.”
She talks to herself. “I’m nervous… Think about something else… Stop it, Erin. Stop it… Don’t be paranoid…I’m sure it’s fine. “She questions herself. “ Am I all wrong? What the hell would I do with a gun?” She chastises herself. “I really don’t have time for this…I should have seen this coming.”
It is a thriller with tension that builds on every page, and Erin’s other stories contribute to the trauma. Her documentary about three convicts adjusting to their new lives is interesting, but that does not go exactly as planned. The honeymoon to Bora Bora is romantic, but does not go as planned. Furthermore, after that ill-fated dive, married life with Mark does not go as planned either. Erin’s whole life is a house of cards about to tumble into that grave she is digging for her husband. That opening really keeps readers turning the pages. How did things get to those starting words?
I received a copy of “Something in the Water” from Catherine Steadman, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley. It starts with a shock and relives the day-by-day events that led up to it. There is an “end” to Erin’s saga, one that may or may not be expected or satisfying.