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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Book review: Edge of Black Water by Joe R. Lansdale


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies.

Lansdale has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others.

Publisher: Mulholland Books (March 27, 2012) Print length: 292 Formats: ebook, paperback, hardback, audiobook

Joe R. Lansdale needs no introduction. He’s a brilliant storyteller with a flair for characterization and plotting. Edge of Dark Water is a compelling coming-of-age story full of adventure and suspense.

Set in East Texas during the Great Depression, it tells the story of a group of friends trying to honor their friend. And to survive. Mae Lyn, the prettiest girl in the county, has always dreamed of going to Hollywood. And maybe she would if someone hadn’t murdered her and thrown her into the river with a Singer sewing machine tied around her ankles. Her three closest friends decide to dig up her body, burn it, and take the ashes to Hollywood.

The three kids discover a cache of hidden money that Mae Lyn’s dead brother stole from a bank. It’s only a thousand dollars, but in those days when even ten dollars was a lot of money, and many people would have killed you for much less. Bad guys want this money as much as our protagonists.

Each of the young protagonists has a reason to run away from home and set out to honor Mae Lynn. Each of them is an outsider: Sue Ellen is basically a tomboy, Jinx is black, and Terry has a reputation for being a “sissy” The story is set in the South, during the Depression - the good ole days were only good for a selected few.

Without going into too much detail, the friends and their companions make their way down the river and some nasty characters follow them. Everyone wants money. Lansdale builds suspense and tension with skill and focuses on building momentum. Twists and reveals come with perfect timing and more than one punch to the gut; They show how fragile life and friendship are.

Edge of Dark Water contains both lighter and darker moments and touches on potentially triggering themes (racism, child abuse, alcohol abuse, prejudice). Above all, though, it’s an arresting tale with fully developed characters, an excellent plot, and palpable suspense. Joe R. Lansdale is a brilliant writer and this book may be one of his best works.

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