Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Water Keeper by Charles Martin

The Water Keeper by Charles Martin

I hadn’t read anything by this author in the past, but many of my reader friends loved this book. Glad I checked it out.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Murphy Shepherd is a man with many secrets. He lives alone on an island, tending the grounds of a church with no parishioners, and he’s dedicated his life to rescuing those in peril. But as he mourns the loss of his mentor and friend, Murph himself may be more lost than he realizes.

When he pulls a beautiful woman named Summer out of Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, Murph’s mission to lay his mentor to rest at the end of the world takes a dangerous turn. Drawn to Summer, and desperate to find her missing daughter, Murph is pulled deeper and deeper into the dark and dangerous world of modern-day slavery.

With help from some unexpected new friends, including a faithful Labrador he plucks from the ocean and an ex-convict named Clay, Murph must race against the clock to locate the girl before he is consumed by the secrets of his past—and the ghosts who tried to bury them.

And now, my review:

This novel hooked me from the first scenario. The hero is larger than life, overcoming repeated life-threatening injuries, something you can get away with in fiction. I liked how, though he was flawed and broken himself, he risked himself to help others. Along his rescue journey, he picks up a crew of misfits, like himself. They rescue each other and heal some of their hurts together. The topic of modern-day slavery feels immediate and will keep readers engaged.

As I read the e-book, I highlighted several lines. The author is insightful, and his prose requires a double take at times. As a general fiction novel, this book tackles heavy topics of human trafficking and the violence of pursuing the traffickers. Expect blood. There is a thread of romance, along with a thread of a previous love story. I liked the sense of justice and clearly contrasting values/morals, where we root for the good guys and delight when the evil ones fall. If you’re a sensitive reader, as I am, you may need to skim a few passages, but I didn’t find those elements overwhelming.

I found repeated patterns of “to be” verbs paired with -ing words: like “was swimming” or “were making,” and there were several POV missteps. The jarring pattern of “began _____-ing” pulled me from the story multiple times. (It’s impossible to turn off the inner editor.) I also became a little lost on occasion. But by the end, readers will understand earlier mysteries. There were moments of melodrama and what some might call schmaltz, but the good outweighs the bad here. Any or all of these issues may have been reworked from the ARC (advanced reader copy, which I read) to the final version.

The other missing element for me was deep POV. Readers are kept in the dark about what the MC is thinking/feeling. This may be because this novel leans toward the suspense genre, which hides things from readers for the sake of mystery.

I recommend this novel, and I’ll watch for the next book in this series.

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