Monday, October 29, 2012

Book 23: Dark Echo

I picked this one up based on Siege's review and I wasn't disappointed.  Martin is the narrator for the majority of the story, and his rich, successful father has recently announced his retirement to focus on his goal: sail the recently bought Dark Echo across the Atlantic to the United States.  While Martin and his father don't not get along, they aren't necessarily very close: Martin's comparatively sheltered life  has meant that he hasn't had to work as hard as his father, so his father has a hard time relating, and Martin feels he is a disappointment to his father.  As a result, he accepts his father's invitation to join him on his maiden voyage.  Between all the prep work the two men have to do to become competent sailors, and the restorations on the 80 year old ship, Martin has six months to prepare himself for this trip, and to start feeling trepidation.  As it turns out, there is something off about the ship, and its original owner, Harry Spalding, also doesn't seem to be all that meets the eye.  The official story is that he was an American playboy that hung out with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, before killing himself.  However, it quickly turns out that there is a dark side to all of this.
Suzanne, Martin's live in girlfriend, is a researcher for BBC documentaries working on a piece on Michael Collins.  However, she too starts to feel the weird vibes coming from the Dark Echo and finds time to do research on the ship, and its owner.  Mishaps and accidents at the boatyard slow down the reparation, but Martin's father is undeterred.  Cottam eventually weaves a tight background story, and it is obvious from the beginning that Spalding is evil since the novel starts out with a mysterious raid on a cathedrale during World War I.  Spalding was in charge of an elite and savage troop during the war, and their story ties into Spalding's history and flirtations with the dark.
I quite enjoyed the background story that Cottam developed for this novel, and how it slowly builds up.  I actually was more interested in the events that had happened in the past than the present day parts of the novel concerning the ship, but it was very well plotted.  It seems like ghost stories often just loose their steam somewhere, and I definitely don't think that applies in this case.  As much as I enjoyed the story, I wasn't really that scared.  I was hoping for a nice spooky story for Halloween (especially since I was too chicken to see Sinister by myself), and while it was a nice, moody story, I also wasn't jumping at shadows after reading it.  It may have helped if I'd read it at night.

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