Edge of Dark Water by Joe Landsdale
Publisher: Mulholland/March 27th, 2012
Kind thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland for providing a review copy
May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she’s dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.
Sue Ellen, May Lynn’s strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can’t become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.
Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn’s remains to Hollywood.
Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.
Edge of Dark Water is my first Joe Lansdale novel. I know, I know! The man is something of a legend, and I’m a bit ashamed that I’m just now discovering the awesome. But you have to start somewhere, yes? Anyway, I saw a blurb for Edge that said something along the lines of “a mix of Mark Twain and classic Stephen King.” Yes, please! As it turns out, that statement was pretty accurate. The voice of Edge of Dark Water is 16 year old Sue Ellen, who lives with her parents in East Texas, along the Sabine River, during the Depression. While fishing with her father, and her friend Terry, they make a grisly discovery. May Lynn, a girl their age, has been killed and dumped into the river with a sewing machine tied around her ankle to weigh her down. Sue Ellen’s father suggests leaving her there, but Sue Ellen and her friends have other ideas. The beautiful May Lynn always wanted to go to Hollywood, so they’re going to take her there. Unfortunately, this will be an undertaking of massive and terrifying proportions, as they navigate the turbulent Sabine and evade the designs of a sadistic killer out for their blood.
The idea of taking your friend’s body, burning the remains, and stealing a raft to take said remains down the river, and eventually to Hollywood, is really only something the very young would attempt, but that’s one of the things I love about this book. Yes, their idea is a fantastic one, the likelihood of success phenomenally low, yet Sue Ellen, Terry, and Jinx are determined to make it work. Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother decides to leave her father and come with the group, in what turns out to be a very positive thing in the long run. There are a few significant things that will surely hinder their plans, however. One, Sue Ellen’s father isn’t going to let them get away so easily, and after Jinx has a scuffle with May Lynn’s father, neither is he. There’s a question of money, in the form of stolen loot that our little group has discovered, and a psycho named Skunk is on their trail. No one really believed in Skunk before now. His name was synonymous with the bogeyman, and was something used to scare small children, or so they thought. He’s plenty real though, and when they finally do meet, it’s terrifying. Seriously, this guy will make your nightmares have nightmares. I loved Sue Ellen’s wry voice and she is both wise beyond her years, and yet, just a young girl. Jinx’s dry sarcasm will make you laugh and adds plenty of levity to some pretty horrid circumstances. Terry is an intelligent young man, and most often a voice of reason, but he’s conflicted in ways that might come back to haunt our little group. The author keeps up a pretty relentless pace, and puts these kids through the ringer, keeping you glued to the pages until the very end. Unusual, sometimes brutal, and thoroughly fascinating, Edge of Dark Water is a must read for fans of literary horror and southern gothic noir, not to mention fans of just plain great writing and wonderful characters! You’ll love this one!