THE DEPTHS has a seemingly innocuous beginning: Eden, a financial executive, surprises his anxiety-riddled wife, Marah, with a vacation to Malaysia after she suffers her third miscarriage. They stay in a charming bungalow and make love on the beach, and the idyllic tranquility nearly feels like it might help them heal their fraught marriage. Yet, even from the book’s first poetic paragraph, author Kirk Kjeldsen uses powerful imagery to quietly refute that notion: “The fog appeared…. At first it looked like a tuft of dirty cotton. Then it looked like a spreading ink stain…. It rolled over them like a slow, gray wave, swallowing them whole.”
Even before the kidnapping occurs, Kjeldsen skillfully uses language to slowly invoke a growing sense of unease that’s felt by both Marah and the reader. His writing, both here and throughout the novel, is laden with well-researched details, like the prickly rambutan fruit in the market or constant references to the names of Malaysia’s cities and towns. His similes and metaphors are so finely crafted, they never feel overbearing or cliché, such as when he writes of sunlight “splashing like hot butterfat across the surface of the sea.” Each sentence successfully works toward the dual purposes of conveying a realistic setting while also creating the dread that pervades nearly every scene.
Marah herself adds to this feeling, her mind constantly circling and worrying and questioning. Her interior monologues are believable in their gut-wrenching vulnerability, seeming to say to the reader, I know you. We’ve all been in this place of despair. Her character, too, is complex and deep—though she is at first timid and unsure, she comes forcefully into her own, despite, or perhaps because of, the terrifying scenario thrust upon her.
Of the novel’s two major twists, one comes as a complete shock, both to Marah and to the reader. It’s to Kjeldsen’s credit that he’s managed to make it both believable in the context of the story yet also entirely unexpected. The second surprise, however, is relatively predictable, especially if the reader has been paying attention. Despite this very minor flaw, THE DEPTHS is a pleasurable read, immensely satisfying in its suspense.
~Christina Doka for IndieReader