Dark Waters is halfway between a good surprise and a frustrating read. On the one hand, I can think of many scenes, whose ambiance and mood would have been enough to be at the core of a very good short story, and I liked them very much. On the other hand, the whole feels like the promising draft for an awesome darkish tale: exciting but a tease.
The story is set in Scotland, in a time and place at a crossroads of civilizations, which reminded me a lot of Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox. Northern legends rub shoulders with Roman civilization and Christianity, Brothers with modern notions of criminal profiling collaborate with Immortals to track a serial killer. At the same time, a romance takes roots in very human desires, and develops with a conflict based mostly on the nature of one of the characters and whether he can be more than a predator or not.
So, let’s sum it up: a serial killer, an investigation, a conflicted romance, a land, a period and characters that are the stuff of legends. Wow. Exciting, but too much going on to be fully satisfying in such a short length. I don’t recall any plot hole, but a lot – whether it is the mystery development, the romance development, or the characters development – happens off scene and the reader is told it happened or is happening; it felt like the author had to summarize her development in order to squeeze the story in 87 pages. It is coherent, but there are so, so many threads to unwind that I would have loved to read about, and I can’t help feeling unsatisfied.
The strongest asset is the writing. It flirts briefly with flowery prose in the sex scenes, but I really liked it for the most part. It is rich yet not overwritten, it sounds, it paints great decors, it wraps the story in an imagery of foggy lochs and plashing waves on isolated shores, it sets a legendary atmosphere for this tale where fearless wanderers seduce deadly creatures with stories of foreign lands.
Like I said in the beginning, I hovered between being seduced and unsatisfied; but it was pleasant enough to definitely want to explore more of this author’s work.