"Something is Lurking Under the Lake…
Before I begin this review, let me say that I’m not usually a fan of ghost stories. I’ve found myself in the mindset that if you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read them all. That said, having read other stories by Duncan Ralston, and enjoying them immensely, I couldn’t wait to dig into Salvage.
Salvage is Ralston’s first full-length novel. It opens with Owen and Lori, a brother and sister going to the lake with their parents. They share the same mother, but Gerald is Owen’s stepfather, and they have a rocky relationship since Owen never recovered from his father abandoning him when Owen was only 5 years old. Owen’s mother never forced religion on her children – in fact, she shied away from any kind of religious discussion and her kids never understood why. The family never even celebrated Christmas because it was a religious holiday.
Fast forward many years. Lori grew into a woman who loved the water and who felt like she had to save the world. Owen went to university and became an architect. At the age of 40, he never found love and was simply going through the motions of living a fulfilled life. Then one day, tragedy strikes. Lori dies in a diving accident.
Despite having a rough relationship with his sister toward the end of her life, Owen attends her funeral and vows to figure out how an experienced diver such as Lori could die in such a senseless accident. Strange and scary things begin happening to him and he knows he needs to put aside his fear if he’s to ever find peace.
Owen never really liked the water and at first, we don’t know where his fear comes from. He faces his fear after Lori’s death when he buys diving equipment and sets out on a road trip to the lake where Lori drew her last breath.
As the story progresses, we not only learn what happened to Lori, but we find out about Owen’s father, the truth of why Owen’s mother never spoke to her children about religion, and all the while, we get a little creeped out along the way.
I think Ralston does a superb job of making the lake a terrifying place. I’m not usually afraid of the water, but I prefer the openness of the ocean to the dark, murky depths of a lake. The lake featured in Salvage is just that – dark and murky. You couldn’t pay me to wade in that water, much less dive in it.
Another thing that struck me about this book was its characters. Everyone from Lori and Owen to Owen’s mother were very real and the dialogue was spot on. None of it felt forced and I loved these characters from the first chapter. Ralston did an outstanding job of developing the Owen character throughout the story.
There are strong religious undertones to this story. Religious fanaticism abounds in this book and it’s scary to think that people like this exist in real life. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find the kind of people Ralston writes about on the news.
Another issue tackled in Salvage is mental illness. As a person who battles depression every day, I have to give kudos to Ralston for the way he handled the mental issues in this story. Yes, Salvage is dark and tackles a disorder millions of people deal with, but he does so with grace and finesse.
As far as horror goes, even though I really don’t find ghosts particularly scary, there are a couple of scenes in Salvage that gave me goosebumps. When Ralston wants to scare you, he doesn’t hold back.
In closing, Salvage, in my humble opinion, is beautifully written with realistic characters and a plot that keeps you hanging on until the very end. Duncan Ralston is soon to become a name to be reckoned with in the horror genre and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Salvage will be available for pre-order soon and drops on November 10, 2015. Fans of modern horror, ghost stories, or just a great book with likeable characters will want to pick this one up.
Preorder a copy here
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