Book Review

Dark Water by Sara Bailey


Rating: ★★★★☆

Helena is a PR expert living the London high life.  When her father has a heart attack, she returns to Orkney and her family home.  Once there, she finds that very little has changed – the same people, admittedly slightly older and in some cases wiser – still live there, and it has been left relatively untouched by time and progress.

Whilst her visit enables her to catch up with friends and family, it also forces her to revisit some painful memories that she has suppressed since she left – memories from when she was 17, and her best friend, Anastasia, disappeared.

Dark Water switches between the current day and Helena’s time as a teenager, gradually revealing the events leading up to Anastasia’s disappearance, and the affect it has had, on Helena and the wider Orkney community, so many years later.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel.  It’s described as a coming-of-age thriller, and whilst it is partly that, there is also so much more to it.  The flashbacks cover how Helena and Anastasia met, the mischief they got up to and their development into young women and everything that goes with that stage of life.  But the relationship isn’t portrayed as being entirely healthy or balanced.  Anastasia comes across as being a little cruel and manipulative, and Helena’s fondness for Anastasia seems to border on obsession.  And Bailey perfectly captures the insecurities that go with adolescence, and as the novel progresses it’s easy to see how Helena became the women that she did, and why she made the choices that she did.  I thought that this was handled with incredible subtlety – it’s not overtly stated, but you can see how events that happened then affected Helena, making her the person that she is in the present day.

One thing that made Dark Water stand out for me was that it shows character development in the adult Helena as well as in the teenage version of her – something that seems rare in this kind of novel.  Helena finds Orkney life to be much slower paced than London, and I thought that she became much more calm and likeable as she relaxed into her surroundings.  And I loved the portrayal of life in a small community where everyone knows everyone else and where it’s nearly impossible to keep a secret.  A very different existence to the anonymity that a London lifestyle affords.

Dark Water is an incredibly compelling read, both in terms of finding out what happened to Anastasia but also what would happen in the present day as Helena reconnects with friends, family and old flames, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  The ending is just brilliant.

Dark Water will be published on 3rd October as a paperback and as an e-book, and Amazon currently have the e-book listed at the bargain price of £0.99.  Many thanks to Jacqui Lofthouse at Nightingale Editions for providing a copy for review.


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