Dark Tides by Chris Ewan
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Faber & Faber
My Rating: 3.5/5
Synopsis: When Claire Cooper was eight, her mother disappeared during Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween.
When Claire was eighteen, she and her friends took part in a Hop-tu-naa dare that went terribly wrong.
Now in her early twenties and a police officer, what happened that Hop-tu-naa night has come back to haunt them all, and Claire must confront her deepest fears in order to stop a killer from striking again.
I really wanted to love this. Ewan writes excellent prose and he’s good at suspense, but there’s just something about it that didn’t sit right with me.
I think the main thing is the murderer. I knew who it was pretty early on. I was never 100% sure (Ewan is careful not to give away too many details), but when I thought logically about the story I deduced who was the likeliest suspect. And I was right. But instead of that big feeling of elation when you guess the killer during a TV murder mystery and you turn to your family all smug, I just felt a bit deflated. It was that moment of ‘knew it, now let’s get to the bit where the protagonist defeats the murderer’.
The red herring also didn’t work on me. Actually, I lie, I fell for it a little, but if it had turned out to be the truth I would have been even more unsatisfied.
However, like I said, Ewan is an excellent writer. His prose is sharp and cinematic, his characters fleshed out, and his descriptive language is brilliant; no detail is too small. The setting of the Isle of Man is definitely an excellent choice in terms of a claustrophobic yet rural atmosphere. You get the sense that there aren’t many places for the characters to hide on a small island, juxtaposed with the seemingly empty rural open spaces. My heart was definitely pumping a little faster at the climax of the novel (even if it wasn’t a surprise to me) simply because of Ewan’s effortless writing. There was also one twist that I didn’t see coming that surprised me when it was revealed, so I was pleased with that, but it didn’t matter quite as much when the BIG reveal was so disappointing.
Nevertheless, I haven’t been put off reading any of Ewan’s future work. Just because one crime novel fell a little flat doesn’t mean the others will, especially with his writing style; crime is a difficult and fickle genre. Despite my apparently low rating, I would recommend this book because you might not have a clue who the murderer is and be really surprised by the reveal. However, I wouldn’t entirely bet on it.
Have you read Dark Tides or any of Chris Ewan’s other novels? Have you read any crime novels where the killer has been obvious from the start? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!