Book Review: Dead Drift
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
For two girls on the run, the rapids seem like the perfect adventure.
But it might just be their last.
At eighteen, Emmy Jenkins knows not to expect too much from life. She’s spent most of it bouncing from one foster home to another. The one thing she can count on is her foster sister Amber.
Amber is still underaged and stuck in Emmy’s last foster home with a creepy, handsy uncle. So once Emmy’s out of the system, the obvious course of action is to get as far from Oregon as possible—and to take Amber with her.
On a whim, they decide to take one final adventure before crossing over into their new lives in Canada. Whitewater rafting in the tiny town of Lodell sounds like a good choice. But the town is not as sleepy as it looks. Something dark rests under the surface. Something that has taken a deadly interest in Emmy and Amber.
Dead Drift is the first book in the Whitewater Thriller series. It skirts the edges of mystery thriller and action thriller, but ultimately settles more into psychological thriller territory. In many ways it’s an unnerving read. A taut, smothering atmosphere hangs over the novel, casting a pall across every page.
The setting in Dead Drift is fantastic. Despite Lodell being a summer and holiday town, it is imbued with deep shadows. Even the spontaneous excitement of whitewater rafting feels oppressive. Romo does a fantastic job of building tension in otherwise innocuous encounters and events.
Everything about the rafting section of the novel feels deeply authentic. It’s easy to imagine the powerful sweep of the river, the frothing splashback and the boulders jutting into the path of unprepared rafters. The town too is eerily realistic. A place so small that everyone knows everyone. In some novels, this would feel friendly. In Dead Drift, it feels invasive. Like the town is always watching.
Dead Drift starts out strong. The relationship between Emmy and Amber is both sweet and inspiring. They have trauma, but they’re pushing to get past that and to make better lives for themselves. At about the halfway mark, the story changes from something fun to something darker and more psychological.
But emotionally, Dead Drift doesn’t quite hit the complexity needed to stand up to the change. The killer in the story is next level creepy and the atmosphere keeps the tension almost unbearable, but the way the characters act and react to the situations they’re in is underwhelming. Despite already being freaked out by the town and wanting to get out as soon as possible, when Emmy and Amber find that their tires have been slashed, they go about their lives as normal. They even head out to drink that night. The characters are disturbed and worried but do nothing about it.
Dead Drift is a creepy, tense reading experience. From the first pages, this novel hooks you in. Though I would have liked to see more in-depth character exploration, Dead Drift is a fantastic start to a promising new series.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Serial Killer
Print Length: 340 pages
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