reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
“Fear is fuel. Panic is lethal.” –Sky, The Swell
Welcome to Sorrow Beach: a private, remote Australian Beach where a tribe of six surfers live off the land and wait for the perfect wave. But each one is carrying a dark secret and murder is prevalent. Strangers not welcome.
This is The Beach meeting The Lord of the Flies in one heart-racing package.
Kenna, a sports therapist in London, is grieving the loss of her photographer boyfriend, Kasim. Kasim drowned two years ago while photographing her surfing in Cornwall. When he died, Kenna, an avid surfer, swore she would never surf again and moved to London to start a new life. But when her best friend Mikki calls to tell her she is engaged, Kenna becomes suspicious when no invitation follows. She flies to Australia to find a very different Mikki than the one she knew. Kenna’s arrival in Australia begins when she meets a desperate mother looking for her missing daughter, a backpacker. Kenna becomes concerned about Mikki, who seems to be controlled by Jack, her fiancé, whom she gets weird vibes from. She seems closed off and cautious, and not happy to see Kenna, her best friend. But almost as soon as she gets there, Mikki and her fiancé, Jack, invite Kenna to join them on a secret beach, Sorrow Bay, to experience the best surfing of her life. She hesitantly agrees, not at all interested in surfing but hoping she can rescue Mikki and bring her home to England.
But when she gets to Sorrow beach, it is not at all what she thought it was. There are people living there, immediately suspicious of Kenna and openly hostile towards her. The “tribe” members include Jack: a former pro-surfer with debilitating back pain and an addiction to painkillers, Clemente: a Spanish man, grieving the loss of his wife and girlfriend, Victor: a man suffering from extreme PTSD and a fear of the water, and Sky: the bold leader of the tribe, a former psychotherapist who uses extreme methods to deal with fears, and finally Ryan: a tourist featured in several missing persons ads who is hiding from his former life. They are all very strange and guarded, each one very unlikeable and they consider Kenna not only an outsider but an uninvited guest. She is not prepared for the level of hostility she experiences from them and is more than ever determined to get Mikki home. As dark secrets are discovered, Kenna soon realizes she may be in danger and desperately looks for an ally in this peculiar group.
While the reader is given a huge reveal in the first half of the book, the pace of the novel still keeps you guessing, as every member is just so creepy. Even when Kenna is initiated into the group, they are still hostile, and she struggles to find her footing. She asks too many questions, suspecting several tribe members of murder. The Swell is mostly told from Kenna’s point of view; there are several brief chapters devoted to different members of the tribe. Throughout the book, I felt a need to yell at Kenna, who just isn’t getting it and consistently puts herself in danger. She is either being incredibly brave or just dumb. This is a very well-written thriller/mystery that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering who these people really are and what they are capable of.
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