Review: Edge of Dark Water

Posted: October 2, 2014 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Joe R. Lansdale, Mystery
Edge of Dark Water

I’ve been on a bit of a Joe Lansdale kick lately. He’s become one of my favorite short story authors, and I am continually impressed by how easily he seems to transition between short and long fiction. You’ll recall that I loved his novel THE THICKET (EBR Review), and once I finished it I immediately purchased a copy of his prior novel, EDGE OF DARK WATER (Amazon).

I loved it.

EDGE OF DARK WATER follows a girl named Sue Ellen. While out fishing, she discovers the body of a local girl, May Lynn, sunk into the river, weighed down by being tied to a sewing machine. Sue Ellen, along with her friends Jinx and Terry, decide they should take May Lynn’s ashes to Hollywood… after they dig her up following the burial, of course. Seeing as this is a Lansdale novel, things go sideways pretty quickly, and the group is pursued the whole way (I’m not going to say why. You need to read the book, and this bit is best left as a surprise).

Going into the novel, I was aware of the comparisons people had made with this novel to Twain’s THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I figured it would be nonsense, but I was delighted to find that EDGE OF DARK WATER did carry a very similar vibe. But darker. And really, if that doesn’t sell you on the novel, I’m not sure what will.

Sue Ellen’s PoV narration is terrific. She still has some of the immaturity that kids her age have, but she also manages to be wise beyond her years due to the harsh realities of life. I want you to think of all the novels you’ve read where the main PoV narrator is a kid. Most of them are bad. I mean, really, truly terrible. Why? Because writing kids is extremely difficult for most authors. Either the kids act like adults the whole time, or they come across as whiny distractions. Lansdale manages to capture Sue Ellen’s character in a way that is rarely accomplished, even more rarely with such pitch perfect tone. Every line she utters both internally and externally feels 100% true to character, and absolutely natural. This characterization also hits perfectly with Sue Ellen’s friends, Terry and Jinx.

What I liked most about this novel was the sense of adventure mixed with the feeling of dread. I worried about the safety of these characters, but I also rooted for them to continue their adventure. And all the while, I wondered who killed May Lynn.

What more do I need to say to convince you to read Lansdale? He’s one of the best in the business regardless of what genre he chooses to write in. EDGE OF DARK WATER is an incredible novel that I can’t help but recommend to everyone.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: It can get strong depending on the character
  • Violence: This is a Lansdale novel. He just knows how to get the most out of every drop of blood. There is some crazy stuff here, and written incredibly well
  • Sex: Alluded to

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