A South Pacific thriller that mixes a good deal of Robert Louis Stevenson with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft.
Edwards’ (Nightscape: Cynopolis, 2015, etc.) third Nightscape novel opens with a desperate emergency—and it rarely slows down after that. Six passengers are enjoying a pleasure cruise aboard a luxury 58-foot cruising yacht near the Solomon Islands when sudden disaster strikes: their anchor comes loose during the night and their yacht strikes a coral reef, fatally gashing the hull. Everyone is forced to abandon ship and swim in the darkness to the nearest atoll. The six castaways are 26-year-old Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Ridge Dantley; his fiancee, Mira; his old friend and former schoolmate at Choate, Aaron; U.S. Sen. Bryant Neeland of Georgia; his chief of staff, Kenny; and Kenny’s latest “flirtation,” Boston Brahmin Paige. They all (barely) make it to the atoll—except for Aaron, who disappears into the night. A grieving Ridge decides to swim to a much bigger island in the distance in hopes of finding a settlement or some fresh water. Instead, he finds a nightmare: an outlaw camp run by a sadistic tyrant named Tarrant who forces his own men, the native Melanesians, and now Ridge, to mine for gold. But from Ridge, he wants one other task: editing a strange work of philosophy that Tarrant’s been writing. Edwards very skillfully intersperses tense action scenes among engaging elaborations of his characters—most interestingly, the aforementioned disillusioned senator, who thinks “with growing vehemence” about the decay of the American dream. The prose can be melodramatic at times, as in this line, during the boating mishap: “From his perspective, high above the water, his friends appeared the hapless victims of some vast Manichean struggle.” However, the pacing is pitch-perfect throughout, and the supernatural elements that reveal themselves later on in the story are smoothly integrated. Also, new readers need not read the earlier volumes in the series to enjoy this one.
Fans of contemporary horror-thrillers will be deeply satisfied by this latest Nightscape outing.