The deciding factor for choosing Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes from the three books she has published so far (a fourth is due out soon) was the setting--a barge in Kent. I've always thought it would be cool to live on a boat. Imagine the waves gently lapping against its sides lulling you to sleep? Of course Dark Tide is a novel of suspense, page-turningly so, so the setting takes on a rather sinister tone in this story.
Dark Tide is your classic--girl falls into the wrong crowd, makes some very unwise decisions and then gets herself into heaps of trouble--story. You know the sort--the heroine hears something knocking against the side of her boat in the middle of the night and goes to inspect, and you are mentally willing her not to go. Don't do it, you think, as you know she is going to regret it later. And sure enough, this is the start of all her problems.
No, let me back up. The start of her problems really goes back to her life in London. During the day she works in corporate sales which is a high-power, high-stress job. She's very good at what she does, and she is one of the few women in the company which means life is doubly difficult. It's the sort of job you can keep up only so long before burning out and paying a price one way or another. Either you keep going and give up your life (and sanity) to work or find a way out. Genevieve wants out. She wants to buy a barge and take a year or so off to fix it up. Maybe longer. Maybe she'll even stay and find another job, perhaps commute to London. But it takes money, much more money than she has even with a successful job.
Her first bad decision is taking a part-time job as a dancer in a men's club. It's a high-end sort of club where supposedly the owner and staff look after the women and make sure it's all just looking and no touching. Or not much anyway. The sort of dancing Genevieve is expected to do is pole dancing and as it turns out she has a knack for it. She performs on stage, but it's the private/VIP side of the club where the clients can buy attention from the women of a more personal nature (though still hands off). This is where the real money is to be made. Genevieve is almost stunned that she can make so much so quickly--she's getting paid to do something she actually sort of enjoys, getting paid to essentially work out--albeit in front of an audience.
It's when her work life and her after work life intersect and bump up against each other that the choices she has made make living the way she is so untenable. The story opens with Genevieve already living on her barge, Revenge of the Tide, in Kent. She spends her days fixing her boat, making improvements and settling into life in the marina. The other residents are laid back and welcoming, life being so very different in Kent than in London. She's preparing for a 'house-warming' party having invited friends from London down and her new marina friends. But she's a little apprehensive to have the two groups mix.
There is something else weighing on her mind. She has two cell phones. One is her own private phone. The other is a phone dedicated to just one caller. She's only to answer it if she sees GARLAND on the ID. For the reader this is the first inkling that not all is right in Genevieve's world--this new away-from-London-following-her-dream world. Narrated in the first person, this is always a warning sign that either the heroine is not telling the reader everything, or maybe not telling everything accurately. This may not be the case, but the reader is left wondering, and of course this is also classic edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Swiftly and skilfully Haynes grabs the reader and then lets Genevieve tell her story. The plot moves back and forth between now, life on the barge, and how she ended up there. Genevieve quickly fills in the story describing her work and the club, which is seedier than first thought, and whose owner is perhaps involved in something illicit.
That knocking on the side of the barge that wakes Genevieve up? It happens on the night of the party when everyone has left. Revenge of the Tide is her refuge. It's her dream and where she feels most safe. She likes the sun streaming in through the skylight and has no preoccupations with the uncovered portholes. And she doesn't give it a second thought when she goes outside to see what is caught between the barge and the dock. She grabs a pole to clear away the detritus, thinking that some garbage has washed up and gotten stuck there.
But it's a body. The body of a woman. A woman she recognizes. And now Genevieve's carefully executed dream begins to unravel.
Dark Tide is perfect escapist reading. Haynes tells a good story, undemanding but just provocative enough to draw you in and keep you wondering. Despite my hesitations over Genevieve, she won me over in the end. I will most certainly read her other books and am especially curious about her forthcoming novel, which is the beginning of a detective series (and you can never have enough of those, right?). I still think it would be cool to live on a barge.