Seven friends gather at a castle in the Scottish Borders. One last girls’ weekend before Georgina’s wedding. Near the castle, through a path in the woods, is a loch. After a few bottles of Prosecco, the girls head down to the water to take photos. The loch is wild, lonely, and stunningly beautiful. They set their camera to self-timer and take some group shots. Later, looking back at the pictures, they see something impossible.
Behind them, eyes wide, a small, drenched boy emerges from the water. How did he get there; where is he now; and what does he want?
The girls thought they knew each other’s darkest secrets, but one of them has been hiding something terrible. Consumed by grief, she’s been waiting for the perfect moment to wreak her revenge…
Down by the Water is a beautifully crafted, atmospheric slow burner that grew in intensity as I read it. It wasn’t what I had expected from the book blurb, which concentrates on the photo of the young boy giving the impression of a ghostly tale, but in no way did this disappoint me! This is a carefully crafted psychological thriller that takes its time building the tension as the characters are introduced and feel their way around their new surroundings.
You may think you’ve read a similar plot line before but there is a unique and uncomfortable feel to the narrative right from the start. A group of old university friends meet at the train station to start their journey to the Scottish Borders and the castle that they have booked for a hen party. And to begin with this did seem like a group of young women letting their hair down as there is a fair amount of drug taking involved throughout this book. Two of the women are married with children but even so the group don’t seem to have much in common from the days that they studied at St Andrews! And when they eventually get to their destination it becomes obvious that there are tensions between them. What has led to these strained friendships isn’t revealed until the shocking second half of this gripping drama when things really do start to unravel.
Down By The Water delivers a haunting and immersive storyline, beautifully crafted characters all set within a creepy Scottish castle. The author obviously knows the area well and this comes across in her knowledgeable descriptive language. I was entranced by these women, wondering who had something to hide and why. I surprised myself by getting quite emotional during the epilogue as the we see the results of what occurred during the hen party and how it has affected the women who had attended.
A darkly atmospheric, intelligent and compelling read.
Elle Connel studied English at the University of St Andrews, and later Shakespearean Studies at Kings College London and Shakespeare’s Globe. She has worked as a researcher for Al Jazeera television, a freelance writer while living in Spain, and later as the Cruise Coordinator for the National Trust for Scotland (where she worked onboard a ship, swam amongst icebergs, set foot on St Kilda, and finally learned how to ceilidh dance). She’s now a full- time writer, based in Edinburgh with her husband and twin sons.