‘Into the Drowning Deep’ – Mira Grant

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Into the Drowning Deep was a book that I was, initially, unsure about as whenever I think of mermaids I can’t shake my deep-seated sense of unease about things that we know little of, and old literary tales that talk of sirens and luring sailors to their death. Coupled with the focus on a group of scientists heading to try and establish whether or not mermaids exist, I really went into this with some reservations.

Initially this was a little hard to get into. The first zone, establishing the characters and the ideas behind their trip, was necessary but it didn’t really engage me as much as I’d hope. I couldn’t help but think this was not a story that was going to end well in some way – be it disappointment in a failed mission, or a truly failed mission that proved what they set out to but ended badly for those concerned. What we got was a mix of these ideas, but as the story picked up I was hooked.

We have an intriguing group on board. There’s a mix of scientists who have their own reasons for setting sail. There’s the company spokesperson who has close ties to someone on board, but who also has his own directives at odds with what many think they are there to do.

Once the ship was out on the water, however, Grant completely captivated me. The writing was tense, and the story was so well-constructed. I loved the creation of mood and the sense of foreboding that permeated everything taking place on board.

It wouldn’t be a monster story without the realisation that the thing you’re hunting might actually turn out to be smarter than you thought. It doesn’t take long before we start to realise that not everyone will survive this trip – and though I wasn’t overly keen on the detailed description as the sirens started their hunt, it always felt in keeping with the story and what we needed to know.

The mix of characters worked well in this for me. Throughout, I had a sense of big-screen action and there were some interesting moments that suggested there may be future exploration of the subject (there’s certainly one or two strands opened up that would allow this).

Having been recommended Feed by a colleague some time ago, I should have realised I was in a safe pair of hands here. I might never look at the sea in the same way, and it won’t make me feel any easier about travelling by boat, but this really would be a book I’d have no hesitation in recommending.