Day Four by Sarah Lotz (Little, Brown-June 16th, 2015)-I really, REALLY enjoyed The Three, so I was very excited to dig into Day Four. By the way, Day Four is rather timely. I’m sure you’ve been hearing about all the cruise ship disasters on the news: viruses, ships running aground, getting trapped in reefs…you get the idea. It hasn’t been a good time for cruise ships in the media. Lotz takes cruise ship disaster to a different level in Day Four. As norovirus rages through the crew and the guests, far stranger things start happening. The narrative is split between a group of characters, among them is Celine del Ray, a famous “psychic” that is hoping to escape some recent bad press, her assistant, Maddie, a blogger that is determined to debunk and expose Celine once and for all, two women that are determined to commit suicide in style, the ship’s doctor who’s harboring a dark secret of his own, and a disgruntled ship employee who is tired of bowing to the whims of the spoiled, rude passengers. The cruise takes a bad turn on day four, when they find themselves adrift, and there are rumors of dark things coiled in the shadows.
Sarah Lotz is very, very good at building dread, and she takes quite a bit of what made The Mall (writing as one half of SL Grey), and The Three, so great and applies it here, to wonderfully creepy effect. After all, on a cruise ship, you’ve got a captive audience with no hope of escape if something nasty is running amok. And in fact, Lotz kicks off the abuse of her poor passengers with a virulent strain of norovirus, then ups the stakes with power outages and strange goings on with Celine del Ray, who, along with the Friends of Celine that have been promised a cruise with exclusive access to the psychic, seems to be attracting people in droves, and who also knows facts about the passengers that haven’t been gathered by her assistant Maddie. Day Four is intelligent, visceral horror, and Lotz’s character studies add a new layer to what could have been just another “haunted house” novel. But then, nothing about Lotz’s work is ordinary, and just when you think the creepshow is coming to a conclusion, or that Lotz is offering her characters a bit of relief, she hits you with another creepy twist. Also on display is wry observations on conspicuous consumption (see The Mall) and some sly commentary on social media and how much we depend on it.
I’ll read anything Sarah Lotz writes, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.