I absolutely loved Elizabeth Haynes’ first book Into the Darkest Corner. I reacted viscerally to it, pulled in to the claustrophobic, terrifying, uncertain world the protagonist inhabited. So when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for Haynes’ second novel Dark Tide, and particularly when I saw the haunting image on its cover, I was intrigued. I opened the book and waited for Haynes to pull me once again into her spell.
Dark Tide is a good, solid thriller; it’s just not an amazing one. In fairness to Haynes, that may just be because my reaction to Darkest Corner was so strong that it would have been difficult for any book to live up to my expectations. In a blog post, Haynes addresses the comments by many readers that unfavourably compared Dark Tide to Darkest Corner by arguing that she deliberately made both books very different from each other. Fair enough, and kudos to Haynes for not falling into the trap of sticking to a tried and proven formula.
However, what made Darkest Corner stand out from other thrillers is the gut-wrenching emotional reaction it provoked in even seasoned thriller readers. And while I certainly didn’t expect Haynes to repeat her theme of domestic abuse, or to once again use a frightened, scarred female protagonist, I did hope for a similar level of impact. Like I said, Dark Tide is a really good thriller — Haynes is a talented writer, and, particularly in the end, she ratchets up the adrenaline with suspenseful story telling. It’s just not a great one — it lacked both the urgency and the malevolent villain that propelled Darkest Corner.
Dark Tide tells the story of Genevieve, a former sales professional and pole dancer who moved into a houseboat with a mysterious package entrusted to her by a man she met while pole dancing. The book alternates between flashbacks of her attempts to keep her pole dancing a secret and the present day story of a body washing up by her houseboat and the threat of people from her old life tracking her down, presumably for the mysterious package.
Haynes again touches upon gender issues, in particular the objectification of female dancers and the social stigma against pole dancing. The fact that Genevieve is one of only two females at her sales job hints at the environment that requires her to hide her pole dancing. Genevieve’s only female co-worker seems a bit more focused on the struggle they both face in breaking the glass ceiling, and I only wish Haynes delved a bit more into the complexities of that character rather than reducing her to the role of office bitch.
The plot is fast-paced, with the twists requisite in any good thriller. The intensity is watered-down somewhat by the fact that the villains appear to be cookie cutter gangster types — Genevieve has a personal relationship to them, but never really establishes deep emotional ties. The result is that she mostly seems like an ingenue dabbling in situations way over her head. And due to the flat, rather stock aspect of the villain and the situation, the stakes, while certainly important (her life, her security, etc), never feel urgent.
Haynes does dial up the emotional intensity with Genevieve’s relationship with Dylan, a bouncer at the club where she danced, and the man who gave her the mysterious package to hide. There’s an interesting tension between the abrupt, distant Dylan in the present day, who ignores Genevieve’s calls, and the sweet, protective Dylan who befriends Genevieve in the flashbacks. Haynes has a talent for writing intense yet subtle romantic moments — a description of Dylan’s eyes as he notices Genevieve dancing for other men is just hot, and even when Genevieve just thought of him as a friend, sparks flew.
So when Dylan suddenly cuts off communication, even when Genevieve fears his package is endangering her life, there is the potential for some intense drama. Unfortunately, their relationship wasn’t developed enough to justify Genevieve’s almost unwavering trust in Dylan, nor was Dylan’s character developed enough to make such ambiguity believable. As such, the shift in character just creates a disconnect — is Dylan being a professional co-worker who may be attracted to Genevieve but isn’t necessarily emotionally attached to her, or is he a protective friend whose character traits shouldn’t make him put Genevieve in danger and abandon her? Either way, the package itself never seems important enough for Genevieve not to toss, particularly when her life and hard-won escape are endangered because of it.
Still, Dark Tide is a fun, fast-paced read, a good, solid thriller, and I loved the ending. To be fair, if I hadn’t read Darkest Corner and known just how much more Haynes is capable of, I probably would have enjoyed this book much more. As it is, I look forward to reading her next book, and hoping to see her again take the thriller genre to the next level.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.