The Rising Tide
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Last year, Sam Lloyd’s first novel The Memory Wood, a nightmarish tale of abducted children and dark woods, raced up the best seller charts, a feat I anticipate will be followed by The Rising Tide. It is an intense and compelling thriller where a woman watches her life as she knows it is slowly destroyed and her family threatened.
Lucy and Daniel Locke are happily married with a young son Fin, as well as a teenage daughter, Billie born before Lucy met Daniel. Together they have built an idyllic life in the small fishing village of Skentel on the North Devonshire coast. While Daniel started and built up a successful marine business, Lucy opened a bar, The Drift Net which has become a community hub not only for food and music but also for local art. They live in a large house they rescued from dereliction, perched high on the cliffs of Mortis Point, with a bird’s eye view of the harbor and the township. The whole family loves the ocean, sailing or swimming whenever they can. It seems like they have the perfect life, but everything is about to change for Lucy in the blink of an eye.
It all begins when Lucy’s bar manager and friend, Bee hammers on her door to tell her the coastguard found their boat, the Lazy Susan, drifting out to sea. Daniel who Lucy thought was at work, had made a mayday call to say he was in trouble but no one was on board when the boat was found. Next Lucy discovers that she is unable to contact either of her children and has no idea where they are. With the mother of all storms approaching across the Atlantic, Lucy begs the community for help to find her family.
Lloyd’s writing is rich and evocative as impending doom and claustrophobia start to close over Lucy and her family. The monstrous storm and the ocean it whips up parallel Lucy’s torment as she struggles to believe her family will be found safe and well. It’s a storm the like of which has never been seen before, even on this windswept coast:
“Off to starboard, waves sacrifice themselves upon the shattered altar of Mortis Point. Plumes of spray climb heavenward, whipped into spume by tearing wind. Overhead, chariot wheel clouds scythe towards the land.”
Into the midst of this chaos, strides DI Abraham Rose like a true avenging angel. He’s a loner of a man, stricken with a terrible disease eating away his lungs, who recites religious passages to drive himself and the investigation:
“Abraham is a detective inspector but he’s something more than that. He’s God’s blunt-edged tool, formed at speed from the roughest clay to hand. Inelegant, uncivilized, but crudely effective.”
He knows there is something wrong with this investigation. Something that Lucy is not telling him but he can’t get a handle on why this is happening to her. Is she the vibrant force for good that everyone says she is or does she have a darker side, as suggested by events during her youth before she returned to Skentel. Daniel is also popular amongst the community, but he also had a rocky start to life, spending some time in prison as a teenager, so it’s no wonder neither of them trust the police. Abraham can’t tell if they are conspiring together or some outside monstrous evil has somehow wormed itself into their lives. He also feels the impending force and power of the storm and its forewarning of change:
“Ever since he glimpsed that black wall moving in from the Atlantic, he’s sensed the approach of something transformative. It’s not just the slow-motion destruction of Lucy Locke.”
Overall is the theme of catharsis – purification through destruction followed by renewal. However, Lucy knows there will be no renewal for her if she loses her family and she is impelled to find them at all cost. The plot is brilliantly paced, driven by the atmospheric writing, emotionally heart rending in places and climaxing with a brutal scene on the high seas. I think this might just be my pick for top thriller of the year.
With thanks to Random House UK and Netgalley for a copy to read. Expected publication July 8, 2021.