Deep Water

Written by Emma Bamford

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.

Deep Water
Simon & Schuster
RRP: £8.99
Released: July 7 2022

When this book landed on the mat, I thought “Hey, Lord of the Flies but with grown-ups. What’s not to like?”

The set-up is nifty. British Yuppie couple Virginie and Jake empty their piggy-banks, quit their jobs and buy the Wayfinder boat. The plan is to spend a blissful few months on Amarante, an island somewhere in the Pacific, where there is no cell-phones, no electricity, just lots of sand and natural beauty and maybe a volley ball or two for company. Amarante, Bamford assures us, is the product of her imagination loosely modelled on such real Edens as the Chagos Islands and the Seychelles.

En route to Amarante, Virginie and Jake learn they will have company on this modern-day Gilligan’s Island. Their fellow refugees from the 21st century include pairs Vitor and Teresa and Stella and Pete. We get a brief intro to the first couple pre-Amarante and to the second once paradise is reached.

As befits a crime novel, everybody has something murky in their background. Virginie (or Vee) is seemingly haunted by memories of her first husband, Tomas. Vitor is very rich but we know not how so it must be shady doings.  His partner Teresa also has some skeletons but they are not made clear until late in the tale.

In best Lord of the Flies tradition, what starts as a merry band of pilgrims soon turns into a catty, jealous, mistrusting unhappy band of neighbours stuck in each others’ sandy pockets. Sadly, the author seems much more interest in the nautical details than the human ones. The tension never really fizzes, the sexual electricity is as absent as real electricity and the dialogue is not that revelatory.

Not a single one of the characters cried out for my empathy or interest.  Vee’s first-husband flashbacks told me little more than he was not a particularly nice guy. Her marital history in the end had little bearing on the events of Deep Water. Same with hubby two Jake, I never got much sense of the chap other than he is a wiz at resolving any on-board ship problems (exactly the kind of man you’d like to have with you at the ends of the earth!). Little of his psychological make-up or back story came to the fore or influenced the plot.

She does place some Tchekov pistols here and there and I was scared when the machete first appeared. There is a subplot about onetime forced labour on the island. An interesting touch but sadly not linked to the current events that drive the plot forward. That storyline might deserve its own full book but it felt oddly out of place.

Bamford does very little describing of people’s physiques, accents, tastes in music or any of the other authorly details that allow characters to jump off the page. Characters read books but she never tells us if the books are James Pattersons or How to Escape a Desert Island manuals.

Oh, and one element rankled. Virginia and Teresa both defer to their fellas at almost all times. Some of the attitudes were ante-deluvian and neither woman bats a sand-caked eyelash at their menfolk’s possessiveness.

By far the most interesting character is the one we meet first, Danial Tengku, the captain of the Royal Malaysian Navy rescue boat that scoops Virginie and Jake up to take them – well – somewhere. He has a backstory and he is kind, and the device of starting the novel with the rescue is pretty clever, I admit.

Emma Bamford has lived the nautical life and written non-fiction in the past. Her grasp of on-ship knowledge is evident and grounds the novel in a reality that landlubbers can appreciate.


Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor