After three days of fun, sun, and excess, a cruise ship suddenly loses all contact with the outside world. The beleaguered passengers and crew soon find themselves fighting off the norovirus, lots of creepy noises, a few ghosts, and, eventually, each other.
Lotz’s (The Three, 2014) horror-thriller begins as an intriguing take on the classic “locked room” mystery since, as weird things begin to happen, there is no way on or off the ship. She employs this claustrophobic feeling very effectively at first, also developing the fear factor by exploring the mind of a serial murderer on board and by introducing Celine Del Ray, a mostly fake medium who suddenly begins to show signs of true spirit possession just as the ship gets lost (on New Year’s Eve). But as every short chapter ends with a bang (sometimes literally), the novel begins to feel both formulaic and unfocused. The six or seven characters who drive the narrative (the chapters rotate among them) aren’t interesting enough to carry the reader with them, nor is the mystery deep enough to sustain or encourage their development. By the time the engines start working again and Lotz switches her style to newspaper articles and interviews, it feels like a gimmick with no payoff. In the end, it’s still pretty unclear whom or what Celine was channeling, but apparently it’s one step up from demonic possession—malevolent but not up to dragging anyone down to hell. There's another disturbing side to this novel: the basis for the plot might be taken from some recent headlines about disappeared airplanes, and there's something a bit too salacious about the way the story unfolds when one has those current losses in mind.
A little creepy but juggling too many narrative (and horror-movie) threads.