Thursday, March 31, 2022

16. Dead Calm by Charles Williams

I picked up this trade paperback new at Dark Carnival, because I have yet to find an actual used Charles Williams paperback in years of searching.  I chose to read it now because I was confident it would at least be competent and I needed something good after the lacklustre Marion.

It starts with honeymooning couple way out in the Pacific on a sailboat in a dead calm.  He's an experienced sailor and she is learning.  They notice a boat out on the horizon and then soon a single dinghy coming in fast.  They pull in a hysterical young man with a story of a terrible botulism accident, which the reader and soon the man suss out as fishy.  I thought we were going to head into a long period of tension and suspicion, with the couple in conflict.  Instead, Williams delivers action a few chapters in when the man goes to the stranded boat and discovers a couple locked in the cabin.  He races back in the dinghy to his boat, but the kid has already started the engine and taken off with his wife.  A great setup.

The rest of the book is a back and forth between Ingram trying to figure out what happened and get the boat moving so he can follow his wife and his wife trying to deal with this psycho kid.  It's more psychological than action and very tense.  I really am not comfortable on boats and out in the ocean and this book stressed me out.  There was a bit too much technical sailing language, but that is a fault of my ignorance than the book.  Great, fast read. This is what pulp fiction should be.  I understand there is a prequel that narrates the adventure that brought the man and woman together, which I really want to read now.

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