Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

On a small island off the west coast of Scotland, the ferry to the mainland is due. Islanders are keen to get away for a folk festival or to visit loved ones, while it brings in mainlanders in the other direction. What no one realises is something sinister has been unleashed into the water, and once the ferry has gone the islanders start acting rather oddly.

Dead Water starts off rather slowly, introducing all the people left on the island, which means none of the victims are faceless nobodies. They are all distracted with their own problems, that are about to seem insignificant in the face of an ancient curse. If you like horror that focuses on the characters, this one’s for you.

I am a sucker for books set on remote Scottish islands. They are isolated places to start with, so easily cut off from the rest of the world, and hard to escape when something goes wrong. The CalMac ferry is vital to this community. The harsh landscape, the relationship with the sea and the inclement weather all combine into an atmospheric setting.

Sig risks free diving alone to escape the guilt she lives with. With her knee in a brace, she is clumsy on land, but in the ocean she is free. Her not-really-niece is an orphan, her parents lost in the accident which left her in a wheelchair. Sig refuses to accept Evie as family, too scared to let one more person down.

Elsewhere on the island, the new nurse is arriving with his new wife and baby, and his disgruntled son from his first marriage. Telephone engineers also disembark the ferry, here to complete an upgrade of the island’s internet… Of course when things start going wrong, they really go wrong, and in classic Jurassic Park style, the phones are down just when they need them.

A second sight has always run in Matt’s family, but he’s never experienced it. He’s not sure he believes in that but when his grandmother phones in a panic, he takes note. If she says it’s a bad day to be on the water, it’s best to pay attention.

Oh and the dogs. If you know C.A. Fletcher from A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, you know he’s a dog person. You will cringe as the spaniel who was snacking on the brains of a corpse at the start of the book goes round licking everyone. A corpse that the reader knows had something weird going on with it. I can totally see the zombie apocalypse kicking off thanks to overly friendly doggos!

The present day story is separated by the writings of a Varangian man, one who you know is going to be involved in the curse that’s unfolding on the island. You also get to see through the eyes of a pair of ravens, birds who have watched over the island for who knows how long.

From the blurb, I was kind of expecting this to be about a water borne disease, not a supernatural horror story. Once I got past all the introductions I really enjoyed this watery tale with a gripping second half.

Dead Water is published by Orbit Books and is available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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