by Chris Ewan
Cover Artist: Win-Initiative / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250074423
Date: 08 December 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Chris Ewan's horrifying mystery, Dark Tides, is reminiscent of the teen slasher flicks on which I was practically raised during the eighties. An immature prank has disastrous consequences and now someone is hell bent on vengeance. This was the theme behind such classic horror films as Terror Train (1980), The Burning (1981), and The House on Sorority Row (1983). In fact, Dark Tides reminds me very much of Tom Savage's best-selling novel, Valentine, and its film with the same title. If you enjoy holiday slasher fare as much as I do, Valentine is perfect for reading on and around Valentine' s Day just as Dark Tides is very appropriate for Halloween.
The setting for Dark Tides is awesome. Claire Cooper lives on the Isle of Man, which is a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea; it has a population of 80,000 and is 32 miles long and 14 miles wide. It is a rocky island with winding roads, steep cliffs, thatched-roof cottages and noble lighthouses. The weather is cold, rainy and gloomy. All of the novel's action occurs on Halloween or, as the natives call it, Hop-tu-naa. On Hop-tu-naa, children must sing songs for candy, carry lanterns carved from turnips, and wear homemade costumes. There is plenty of action; locales vary from dark woods to rocky cliffs and from inside abandoned cottages to spooky mansions and even include a high-security prison.
What happened to Claire's mom? That is the main question that haunts the characters and will haunt the reader until nearly the novel's end when startling revelations are made. Who is killing Claire's friends? There are numerous suspects. One by one they are eliminated as characters die. Dark Tides is a great whodunit. I zipped through it in only a few days because it was the perfect read for me--a holiday mystery, the likes of which I haven't encountered since Tom Savage's bloody revenge slasher, Valentine. I would love to see Dark Tides made into a film, but it would probably garner more attention if named Hop-tu-naa. More and more Americans have a growing interest in foreign horror films.
Claire Cooper is a likeable heroine. Everyone will root for her, especially towards the end when the killer confronts her at the top of a lighthouse. (This scene is very reminiscent of the climax in the horror film, Darkness Falls, which, like Dark Tides, is steeped in superstitious beliefs.) With his latest novel, Chris Ewan has masterfully and cleverly crafted a spooky horror mystery that will appeal to a variety of fans. It has enough medical and police procedures to satisfy die-hard mystery aficionados and enough blood and guts to satisfy gore hounds such as me. Nevertheless, Dark Tides is best read at Halloween (Hop-tu-naa) or on a dark, stormy night. Ewan is the author of the best-selling Good Thief mystery series but I hope he writes more standalone thrillers that are on the same par as Dark Tides.