Book Review

POISONED WATERS by Ermisenda Alvarez



Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

Helen Gardener is murdered on a trans-Atlantic cruise. The Diamond Royale sails from Southampton to New York with her murderer aboard. Set in the 1950s, Poisoned Waters follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by her death. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realize what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

My Review

Favorite Quote: “Such a terrible fate it was to be a doctor and not be able to save yourself.”

The story is set in the 1950s.

The cruise ship Diamond Royale sets assail from Europe to New York with an ensemble of characters. Among the passengers on board, the most prominent are the ship’s owner Mr. Phillips, Michael who aspires to becomes Mr. Phillips partner in business, Sylvia a Dutch married woman, her husband and his accountant, Benjamin a black employee in the kitchen, Harold a crazy dude, Rodrigo a doctor with a good soul and Patricia. That’s a load eh? Nevertheless, the ship sailed and is to dock in a week. What happens on the ship between departure and arrival is the story.

On day-one, one of the dancers is murdered and Mr. Phillips wants to know who the culprit is. He is however more interested in something that was stolen from him. Michael is assigned the job. Will he solve the riddle? Who is the murderer?

The story travels over the time frame of seven days and seven nights with seemingly innocent characters revealing their true nature and we see how they fit the quote perfectly – A quote with which the book opens – “I trust everyone. I just don’t trust the devil inside them.” – Troy Kennedy Martin. Every character is a protagonist with the potential of turning an antagonist. The devil inside every character is revealed by the end of the journey.

What worked for me: I loved that the book started with one of my favorite quotes – It incited intrigue as I have my own versions of the quote. I loved the foreshadowing throughout the story. Very well done. I like how the author kept me hooked, looking for that one ‘thing’ that would change everything for every character. And there was one for each of them!

For example an omniscient narrator says about the Dutch married woman – ‘He was lying in the bed Sylvia and her husband slept in. They had been intimate within married sheets.’

While Harold wants to be with his wife, Michael is desperate to solve the mystery of the murder to impress Mr. Phillip. I liked Harold’ and Patricia’s character’s the best. They were carved well and his mind-dives were brilliant.

The transitions between past and present and the internal and external dialogue of the characters were seamless and solid. Enjoyed them.

Good use of formatting using bold and italics to emphasize.

‘Having to split the profits three ways angered her. She had planned the heist. It was her mother who needed saving. She had endured the soul-crushing poverty for decades. The profit difference of a two-way split as opposed to a three-way was sinfully enticing.

What didn’t work: First, by the time I read 15 pages, I was completely confused as to who was who. I was introduced to roughly 15 characters in that little time and space. Added to my fate, they all had names to remember!

I could not place myself in 1950 as descriptions and dialogue fell shot to achieve that. Expressions that didn’t work – ‘Maroon eyes?’ Seriously? ‘The glittering red gown hugged Sylvia’s body as if it was her second skin.’

Benjamin suspecting Sylvia was a little out of place as she was with him when the murder happened. They even whisper when the actual scene was taking place. It was out of place and felt unnecessary.

Repetition of words such as ‘well-manicured’ (twice on the same page), ‘his back like a turtle,’ ‘metallic taste of blood,’ ‘shot of adrenaline’ and the worst was the use of ‘lavatory’ (used too many times).

Conclusion: There are too many bad people in the story with not one redeeming themselves. That is unwelcome. Also, the story starts off slow and is confusing in the beginning but halfway along it picks up pace and ends with a convincing climax.

Rating: 3 Stars

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