Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Water by Helen Moorhouse


I did it! I finally finished a book! My reading mojo has flown out the window over the past few months, I just could not concentrate. It turned out my iron levels were quite low, which may explain it - but I managed to get through this.

I wrote a review of Helen's first book The Dead Summer here last year - I loved it. I found it a really good ghost story and as I said at the time, it completely reeled me in. This one - not so much.

Image: Easons.com
First of all, let's get the back cover out of the way:

Martha Armstrong has started again - new city, new home, new future. Yet she's troubled by her partner Will's obsession with the paranormal and an unwelcome face from her past. Troubles which threaten the happiness she thought she had found.

Her friend Gabriel McKenzie, a psychic medium, is troubled too - disturbed by ghosts he suddenly cannot see and haunted by ones he can't escape. Who is the strange intruder that leaves him mysterious messages in his apartment and watches him sleep at night?

So when a desperate call for help comes for Gabriel, Martha and Will make a decision to help him - a decision that takes them North, to the bleak Highland beauty of Dubhglas Castle and its lake, where mysterious occurrences are terrifying the staff. Could they be connected to Gabriel's nocturnal visitor and, worse still, to the powerful spirit of the brutal Jack Ball?

Together, they uncover the secret that shattered Gabriel's family and split a young couple apart, fifty years before.

Is it always best to uncover the past, or are some secrets best left lying in the Dark Water?

I hate doing negative reviews because I understand how long it takes to write a novel, and how passionate writers can feel about their characters. But I really, really didn't like this book at all. I found it a complete let down after the first novel.

It seems very cobbled together - there's too much going on. There's the stuff going on between Martha & Will, Martha & her ex, Dan, then Martha & her friend Sue (who is completely irrelevant), then Martha & her daughter Ruby who only really becomes important towards the end, then there's the feud between Will & Gabriel that is miraculously cured in no time, then there's a whole host of characters from the past - Claire, Martin, Jack, Laurence - enough. Seriously.

It had the makings of a great horror - the first few chapters suggested a really creepy haunting that needed to be investigated, but it took a horrendously boring turn after a couple of chapters and to be honest I struggled to pick it up. I've actually been saving it for when I'm sitting in waiting rooms and I need to pass the time, I couldn't bring myself to pick it up at home. Martha is not likeable, and by the time I got to the end I couldn't have cared less whether she came away unscathed or not.

The "baddie" of the piece wasn't remotely scary, and to bring the Krays into it felt completely out of place and a poor attempt at linking him to some well-known "bad" people. The final elimination of the baddie was rushed, nonsensical, and ridiculous. As was Dan's exit. One minute he's there all guns blazing and the next minute he's gone like a rocket?! What?!

I couldn't understand why Will was even still speaking to Martha by the end of it, to be honest. You can do much better, Will, seriously. She's a pain in the hoop. No doubt a wedding will feature in the next installment, with irritating best friend Sue in bridesmaid mode and adorable daughter Ruby all flowergirl-ed up. While I'm on the subject of Sue - why was she even there?! At one point I thought she was just brought in as a partner for Gabriel, but she was completely surplus to requirements in every scene she was in.

Considering Gabriel was pretty much central to the story, he didn't get much attention at all. I could have done with more Gabriel and less Martha. Much less Martha. The "twist" at the end where Gabriel speculates about Martha is laughable. I just hope to god that this doesn't mean the next book will also feature the same characters.

I hate to be horrible, but if you're expecting another novel as good as The Dead Summer, just approach this with an open mind. Maybe it's me, maybe I just don't have the patience, but I doubt it - very, very disappointed with this book overall.

I will read the next book, Sing Me To Sleep, but I'll be reading it on the back of how much I enjoyed the first book.

I'll be donating this one to the library.