With In The Deep, Loreth Anne White departs from her usual settings of the chilly Pacific Northwest or the Canadian tundra and takes us to the warm, subtropical coast of Australia’s New South Wales. This isn’t her usual police procedural/murder mystery fare either, because while there is a murder to solve, the story is told by the suspects and those closest to the victim, rather than by those investigating the crime. It’s a domestic noir type of psychological thriller… and Loreth Anne White proves to be equally as adept with this type of fare, because In The Deep is quite simply brilliant.
Heiress Ellie Tyler is still deep in grief and trauma after the drowning death of her daughter when she meets Martin Cresswell-Smith, Australian real estate developer. After a whirlwind courtship, the pair marry in Vegas and Ellie travels to Australia where Martin is working on a major new marina development in the tiny beachside town of Jarrawarra Bay. On his own turf, Martin is a very different man to the fun-loving, charming one Ellie thought she’d married, though. A few locals do their best to be friendly, but Ellie quickly realises she’s in over her head.
The story is told in two timelines set a little over a year apart; Ellie’s first meeting and brief romance with Martin and her coming to Jarrawarra Bay… and the murder trial after Martin’s body is discovered.
I had my suspicions about the real villain from their introduction, but I have to admit the twist itself flabbergasted me when it came, despite the fact that I had all the information right from the beginning. White is a master storyteller who performs a brilliant piece of sleight-of-hand writing here, telling you the truth while simultaneously showing you a lie, and because of the way our brains are wired, we follow along with the lie and don’t spot the real truth until it’s pointed out. A second little twist right at the end got me as well, and I put the book down both delighted and discomfited by how cleverly I’d been misdirected.
The Australian settings are very well done; the author spent time in the area described and had Australian readers to check the writing before publication, though a very un-Australian terror of the wildlife did creep in at times. Perfectly understandable in the Canadian heroine but not so much when an Aussie character freaked out over a redback spider. That was my only tiny niggle in an entirely fantastic story, and since international audiences would probably think it entirely legitimate to freak out over a poisonous spider, it’s absolutely forgivable. I’m delighted to give this story five stars and I’m really looking forward to see what the author decides to write next.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.