"Edge of Dark Water" Book Review
Written by Joe R. Lansdale
2012, 292 pages, Fiction
Released on March 25th, 2012
Gripping is a word that's used too much in book reviews. However, in the case of Joe R. Lansdale's latest novel, Edge of Dark Water, gripping is the precise word to describe it. You can also add creepy, entrancing, masterful and deliciously unclassifiable to the long list of positive adjectives that can be used to talk about this superb new novel.
In Edge of Dark Water, the body of a pretty girl is dragged out of the murky bottom of the Sabine River. The former beauty, May Lynn, is tied to a sewing machine and only the presence of her friends Sue Ellen and Terry keeps the men who found her from pushing her bloated corpse back into the dark water. Knowing that no official inquiry will be made to solve the murder and feeling sad about the shattered Hollywood dreams of the only friend they thought would actually make it out of their small town and into the big screen, Sue Ellen, Terry and their friend Jinx concoct a plan to exhume May Lynn, burn her and take her ashes to Hollywood. Pulling it off means leaving their lives behind. It also means they need some money and a way to make it to Gladewater, the nearest town from which they can catch a bus to California. The three friends manage to get their hands on some money May Lynn's dead brother stole and the act sets in motion a series of events that will turn into a life-changing adventure of epic proportions. With the Sabine acting as road, partner and enemy, and a man that might or might not exist coming after them with murderous intent, Edge of Dark Water is a story that simply has to be read in order to understand its spellbinding beauty.
The book's narrative is a thriller, a horror story and an adventure tale as much as it's a coming-of-age tale and a superb study of love, family, guilt and friendship. The characters are as multi-layered as any others in Lansdale's work and the prose is covered with that deep-fried southern goodness that has become one of the author's staples. Also, the dialogue is superb and ranges from the emotionally raw to the absolutely hilarious, sometimes within the same paragraph. Sue Ellen is a witty, outspoken teenager that's been hardened by her experiences; Terry is a young man struggling with his sexuality and carrying an inordinate amount of guilt and Jinx is a riotous and vivacious African American that helps give the story a sense of historical accuracy and manages to lighten up any situation simply by opening her mouth.
With this book, Lansdale has crafted a story that's perfectly comfortable outside of any genre while simultaneously utilizing the best elements offered by the plethora of genres the author has worked with before. In fact, a strong case could be made to define Edge of Dark Water as a Young Adult book. However, it's much more than that and forcing a classification would take away from a work of fiction that's as layered and well-crafted as any the author has produced before. Ultimately, this uniqueness and multiplicity are responsible for putting the novel head and shoulders above a large percentage of what's currently out there.
Lansdale, a man who's been collecting awards for much of his career, never disappoints. Keeping that in mind, the following words take on added weight: Edge of Dark Water is right up there with the author's best work, if not at the very top.