Just finished this little gem of a YA book and had to post. I read a lot of YA… a lot of it. So it’s always nice when a book surprises me. And this book did.
It’s the story about a girl named Alex whose older sister was murdered in a small town. Alex is out for blood, peeps. Alternating between three characters – Jack, the popular boy who takes an interest in our psychotic protagonist – Peekay, the preacher’s daughter who is, honestly, just a nice representation of your basic teenage girl – and Alex, our dark hero. I actually thought the author did a good job of making the teens authentic. Other interesting characters pepper the story, friends, ex boyfriends and girlfriends, teachers, parents, police officers, townie boys. It’s a quick read – gets right to the action – and stays in first person (via three people).
I loved it! I bought it for the library, but I’m keeping this copy… already placed an order for another. It’s not Stephen King or Girl on a Train… it’s more like watching a really fun thriller movie. Bite sized and easy to digest. Highly recommended for a quick, dark read.
I finished another chunk of Into the Drowning Deep and while becoming more terrified of dark places in the water, I also discovered one of the scientists was gay. A few scenes later I learned the newscaster was also gay, as the two women began blushing and being awkward around each other. Not implied gay, mind you. This is not me reading into behavior. The author confirmed. These women are gay and crushing on each other. I nearly died.
Listen up, friends. Finding a book with explicitly gay characters that isn’t a romance novel or specifically about the “gay” experience, is rare. This book isn’t marketed for the gay crowd, either, which is awesome. It’s a horror/thriller novel. And two of the main characters are lesbians and (fingers crossed) gonna share some intimacy before being murdered by sea creatures. They might even live! I mean, barriers are being crossed here! The “kill the gays” trope that so prevalent in media might not be a part of this story…
When I woke up this morning, I was still thinking about how happy I was to have this nerd courtship happening amidst the cruise ship Bloodbath. And that’s when I started thinking about how the culture is changing (in this respect, for the better) – that horror novels have lesbian protagonists now. And not a solitary lesbian, either, but two of them. I mean, one would have been amazing… but two is like winning the lottery. I couldn’t think of a single horror novel with lesbians (other than Sawkill Girls, a YA horror novel that just came out last month).
I did a quick search and got several small press book results. But Orbit is a big publisher. Into the Drowning Deep has almost 10 thousand reviews on Goodreads and a 4.03 star rating. This is a huge win – for myself, for the community, for readers everywhere, and for the author.
*I finished this book shortly after writing the first half of this review – in 2018. For some reason, I never got back around to finishing it or posting.
So here I am… four years later… finally posting this review in 2022.
And I’m happy to report that there are even more gay horror and thriller on the shelves now, with more being published each year. So many more that it seems strange now that I was so shocked by the inclusion in this book only four years ago. Sometimes you just have to get the ball rolling and leave the rest to gravity and demand. I’m also happy to report Into the Drown Deep was badass until the very last page – and remains one of my all time favorite horror novels. The visual imagery from several scenes will haunt my mind forever. We’re talking permanently seared. Like how I can’t see a picture of a lighthouse now without thinking of The Southern Reach Trilogy.
This book deserves a sequel. It doesn’t necessarily need one, but damn would I love to read one. The author, Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), has even said that she has a story in mind but her publisher doesn’t seem too keen to get the book out. I find that outrageous. Why would you not want to bank on a sequel to such a popular book?
Recently the author Brandon Sanderson told the world he had a few books that he’d written that were unpublished and started a Kickstarter campaign to see if his fans would help him get the books out. It became the largest Kickstarter campaign in history, raising over 20 million dollars in three days. All I’m saying is that I would fork out some money to the Kickstarter campaign for more mer-murder books.
Do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s got action, adventure, mystery, thrills, chills, and mysterious terrifying creatures. It’s outstanding, unique, and worth every bit of your time.
RATING: FIVE STARS
Title: Into the Drowning Deep
Author: Mira Grant
Originally published: November, 2017
Genres: Horror fiction, Science fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Nautical, Adventure, Thriller
Before I even attempt to review this magnificent multi-layered murder mystery of conspiracy, crime, and corruption… let us first take a moment to step back and admire the bold choices of the casting and the writing. In particular, in regards to the two main protagonists.
We have the tall, steely cop – who uses few words, has a secret streak of kindness, and dedicates all to the job. This cop leads a team of dedicated followers, kicks ass in physical altercations, and lives alone without close family or friends.
We have a passionate teacher – who gets caught up emotionally in the lives of students, who is quick to express themselves, who worries over and looks after those around them. They live with their extended family, care for their niece who adores them, and works easily as a group amongst his peers.
Now… tradition tells us which gender to assign these roles. But Nobody Knowsis not about following your standards, thank you but no thank you. Nobody Knows had the audacity to give us a female protagonist who is not only significantly taller than the male lead, but also the cold, confident, and calculating character usually assigned to the dudes.
If you think this is not a big deal, then help me out: Name me one show where the central female is the single, solitary figure in a leadership role and the central male is the outgoing, extroverted emotional character in a general worker role. Even if we do have occasional broody female characters, they are not the head of the department or the main character. And if they are, they are certainly not paired with emotional male leads with less “powerful” roles. We are so boring with our gender roles in media – and characteristics we assign to those roles – so I believe dramas like this deserve a round of applause for breaking the mold.
I mean… can you name one show that even has a female lead who is taller than the male lead? Name for me a romance that has a man looking up into the eyes of his beloved. Even in ensemble media, there is still hierarchy of height according to gender. The only exceptions are characters that are significantly short (like Danny Devito). I mean… off the top of my head I can think of… Brienne and Jamie in Game of Thrones, though her tall stature was a big part of the storyline. Usually when it happens the industry will bend over backwards attempting to trick the eye – having the men stand on boxes, always having the women in flats, and so forth. Now… there are a few outliers, like this show, who just have tall women and there is no plot point to made of it, no tricky camera work to hide it… the movie Tenet featured an exceptionally tall woman who slinked around in heels, looming over all the males in the film. Our lead female in Nobody Knows also wears stocky heels – but the kind you can run after criminals in. There are other men in the show that are as tall as her or taller – but the leading man is a shorter. And it’s cool. It’s just… so nice. I noticed it every time they were standing side by side in the show (which is often) and I only noticed it because it’s so uncommon. In the media. Not in the real world.
The music was also… unbelievably good. I’m used to a sorta “standard” with Korean dramas. There is a consistency to their musical choices – but not so with this drama. Every single moment was taken into consideration. I was blown away at how seamless the music blended with the story, building tension, drawing out a character, creating a mood, moving fluidly from scene to scene, always perfectly blended, never a distraction. The instrumental music was perfect – the soundtrack songs were perfect. I was stunned.
The song “The Secret Not Revealed” which is the theme song, really… sums up the series perfectly. The slowly building composition, the haunting lyrics, the beautiful voice… I mean… just listen to it. It’s so stunning.
Above all else, of course, were the awesome characters. I thought this show did a particularly good job of capturing the nuances of young adults – especially young men – and how secretive, withdrawn, and emotionally vulnerable they can be.
This drama was a hit for me. I enjoyed every single episode. There were no wasted moments. Although there were slow meditative scenes, they weren’t “filler” – they were character moments. The flashbacks were minimal and almost always new content (instead of just rehashing a scene from the last episode). The dialogue was natural, as was the setting, the costuming, and the overall feel of the show. There was a foggy, cool tone to this series, like a mood that lingered… setting the tone. It had sweater-weather vibe.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the actual plot because this is a mystery – and the less you know the more you will enjoy it. But I will point out a few things that I thought made this show superior (other than what I have already mentioned).
Every character in this show has a secret – and whatever that secret is, it is their driving motivation and their character arc to be resolved. Whether it’s a secret from their past, a secret connection to another person, a secret job, a secret relationship, a secret part of an organization, a secret business deal, a secret shame or a secret crime, they all have secrets. Maybe secrets are human nature. There are the rules of society, and there are also rules behind how we break them. Society has many layers, and shows like this are all about exposing just how complicated each human is – by themselves as well as in relationship to others. This is a show that reveals in character nuance.
Every character in this show also does bad things. It may be justified to the character (and even the audience) but it’s still a bad thing. No one is perfect. The students, the teachers, the cops, the parents, the adults in the community – they each have instances of doing something bad, of crossing a line. It may be small – like being a poor care-taker, mistakenly misjudging someone, covering up something to help someone else, or keeping their mouths shut when they should have spoken up. Sometimes it’s larger – like committing a white collar crime or engaging in physical or verbal abuse. This show never points out these differences, but it subtly alludes to them and hopes you make the connection.
These various levels of misdeeds create a vivid tapestry of human connections, irony, and complicated justice. For example… a child is abandoned and then taken in by a respected community member, only to be abused again. When the child grows up, they too abuse others. These manipulations and methods were learned, endured, and now being used by the victim. Are they still victims? Does it depend? On what kind of abuse are we dealing with? Abandonment? Physical abuse? Psychological abuse? Verbal abuse? How often does it occur and from how many different sources? Does it depend on whether the victim of the abuse is perceived as innocent or guilty? On how well matched they are? Do we have less sympathy for a teenage boy beaten by another teenage boy if we estimate it to be a “fair fight”? If they “had it coming”? Does it depend on their perceived value to society? All these questions just sort of float around in the air of this show… causing you low key anxiety as you attempt to catalog the characters into good/bad boxes that they refuse to fit into.
Justice is complicated. Crime and punishment are complicated. This show does not pretend otherwise. There are no “good” people and “bad” people in this show. There are just people, who have done varying degrees of bad things for various reasons – whether its insanity, defensive, profit, revenge, or some other motivation.
The characters of this show ruled. They were so well-rounded and memorable. In particular, the man who owned the big hotel near the water.
This guy was just… mesmerizingly odd. Snaps to Park Hoon for delivering such an exceptionally bizarre and charismatic character. It reminded me, in an odd way, of Jang Hyuk’s performance in Fated to Love You. A completely original vibe – everything about them stands out, their mannerisms, their voice, their expressions and interactions with others. Someone give this dude an award.
So, I think you should watch it. If you haven’t already. Sit down and enjoy a drama that doesn’t rely on tropes or familiar story lines. It’s unique. And it will keep you guessing, episode to episode. And it will make you ruminate on a lot of things as you bask in the moody ambiance of this amazing noir mystery.
Overall Rating – 10/10. A Modern Noir Masterpiece.
The premise of this show is simple. A battered wife who has nothing to live for stumbles upon a car crash… with 9.9 million dollars in cash in the trunk. Now, perhaps there are saints in this world who could walk away from such an enormous temptation… but I can’t think of even one living soul I know who could resist. Our miserable female lead is no saint – she takes the money. Every single cent of it.
What happens next is the show.
I don’t like to write detailed reviews about mystery shows. The less you know, the more fun you will have discovering the many – many, many, many – twists and turns of this show. The plot starts off taking you in the logical direction you expect – how will she get away with it? Whose money was it? What will she do with it? Where can she hide it? Who can she trust? But after it jumps through these basics within the first two or three episodes, it starts to do real heavy lifting. It starts to create this intricate web, connecting multiple characters, spinning back on itself, rewriting things, taking you in completely new and fresh directions before marching you back down into the thick of it. There’s a lot of people who are interested in that money…
9.9 Billion won is a lot. A lot, a lot. 9.9 Billion won is $9 million USD. That’s Life changing money. Lottery money.
Money changes your perception of life. The having and not having. The corrupting influence of it. And at its heart, Woman of 9.9 Million is a morality tale. It’s like an elaborate and violent parable or Bible story. And yeah, it’s pretty violent.
The actors in this show all owned their characters. I understood them – the good, the bad, and all the gray shadow folks inbetween. This show took the time to develop everyone important, to give us moments that put spotlights on different people. Everyone was complex. Everyone had issues and hang ups and distinct personalities. No one was perfect, and no one was exactly who they first appeared to be.
The cinematography is gorgeous – the set designs were awesome (so many cool lamps everywhere!) – the music was perfection in every scene. There were very few flashbacks or wasted moments. You will NEVER look at a suitcase the same way again…
Now, I know right away that this drama is not going to be for everyone. The lead characters are all middle aged. I would not call this a romantic or melodramatic. Most of your standard Korean drama tropes are absent from this show entirely. Woman of 9.9 Million is a unique storyline and will definitely surprise you.
If you like murder mysteries, please stop whatever you are doing and go watch Mouse immediately. I mean… just do yourself this one favor. You’ve undoubtedly earned it. I’m sure you work hard. I’m sure you’ve suffered through enough mediocre and forgettable dramas that you have qualified yourself for a reminder of how good a really good K-drama can be when they get everything right.
I loved this show. It was a perfect 10/10, in my humble opinion.
I love a drama that rewards you for watching it. One that has been intricately plotted before production started. You can always tell when this is the case because you have plant and payoff scenes throughout. Little interactions, little cut scenes, little details that just barely caught your eye in early episodes will be brought back later as major revelations and huge plot twists. This show knew where it was going from the first episode and just circled around you a few times like a predator before pouncing and sinking its teeth in. By the end of the second episode, I was completely at the mercy of this drama.
If, by chance, you are reading this review trying to decide whether or not to commit 20 hours of your life to this show, then let me say again, YES. Yes, you should.
It’s about serial killers. That’s all you need to know. That’s it. Just… trust me.
Don’t read any more reviews and for the love of all things holy – do not wander onto the internet in search of spoilers. If you find yourself confused at any point, don’t seek to have your questions answered outside the drama. The drama will tell you everything. It will make it abundantly clear who is who, what is what, and why. Just wait for it. I know we are all accustomed to instant gratification and carry around search engines in our hands, but just… don’t do it.
RESIST THE SPOILERS.
Let the mystery unfold.
Cause if you do – you are gonna have the most enjoyable experience with this show. Your jaw will drop. Your eyes will pop out in surprise. Not once, but twice, my hand flew to my mouth as I audibly gasped with shock. I cried “OH MY GOD!” out loud, to no one, multiple times. I mean… there are plot twists, and then there is Mouse. This show turned a bunch of messy plotlines into a gorgeous, intricate work of knotted art. Spiders everywhere are watching Mouse thinking “Oh, wow, now that’s a freakin’ web!”
The most enjoyable mysteries are the ones that let you get a few things right, so you can congratulate yourself on your deduction skills, but ultimately push you into a dark room and leave you guessing until the very end.
Of course, the story relies greatly on the acting skills of the cast to make it believable. To draw you in with their performances as their character arcs bend and shimmy and attempt a few feats of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. The casting of this show was perfect, down to the most minor characters. Everyone brought their A Game, grounding their characters with passion and heart while understanding the shades of gray this drama wanted to highlight.
This show is not a romance. It’s not a comedy. It’s not an action flick. It’s not a melodrama. It’s a mystery. It’s a mystery about serial killers, so if you don’t want to see some mangled limbs and curiously blurred knives, then you are the only person I steer clear of this masterpiece.
Hopefully this gushing enthusiastic “review” is enough to get you started on Mouse. If at any point you start to feel slightly… comfortable… while watching, then don’t worry – a bomb is about to explode and redirect the entire narrative.
“You thought it was a story about this? Oh no, it’s about this.”
(excited by the change in the story line, you settle in)
“Or… is it…” (drum roll) “this?”
(you gasp and resist texting all your friends about the crazy plot twist you have just experienced)
“You liked that, huh? Well, what about this?!”
(waits until you’ve finally recovered from the last four panic attacks and plot twists before jumping out from behind another mystery door)
“OR IS IT THIS?!!!!”
(you fall over dead from shock – but the drama comes in with automated external defibrillator)
(you come back to life, severely shaken)
“Oh… we’re not done…”
(the insanity continues even into the post-credit scenes of the last episode. you have left your body by this point and ventured into Korean Drama Nirvana)
Overall Rating – 10/10. The Less You Know Going In, The More This Show Will Fuck You Up (in a good way, I promise).
Finished RECURSION last night, by Blake Crouch – which was very good and kept me filled with anxiety as the mystery unfolded. It’s about mysterious individuals who have FMS (False Memory Syndrome) – a new plague that affects people randomly, causing them to have an entirely different set of memories (as well as their current memories). This affliction is so startling, so confusing and upsetting to most people, that the majority commit suicide.
You follow two plotlines. The first one is set in 2018, following a cop tracking down leads on the latest FMS suicide, trying to get to the heart of the mystery. The second plotline is about ten years earlier and follows a young scientist who is desperately trying to discover a way to map and imprint memories in order to help her mother with Alzheimer’s regain her past. As you can guess, this scientist has something to do with the memory plague…
A well written, fast-paced book – I thoroughly enjoyed all the mind bending psychics (thankfully explained in a way that even a layman like me understood, for the most part, what was happening). The concepts of this novel were exceedingly fun to explore. Who are we? How much of our identity is tied to our past?
I don’t want to say more – as the mystery is key to enjoyment. And it’s an enjoyable book. And such a fabulous cover, too… love some holographic print!
Every once in a while you stumble on a compulsively readable story. Sometimes it gets you right away, sometimes you don’t notice until you’re a hundred pages in, but you’re hooked – and you can’t stop. You literally can’t stop turning the pages. Exhaustion usually forces you – and you crawl into bed with your head swirling and wake up a few hours later feeling elated, thrilled about the prospect of jumping back into the story. You waste no time – you get yourself a cup of coffee and disappear into the page again.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl was a compulsive read. A heavy book, pages interspersed with journal articles, website screenshots, investigative notes, medical reports, and photographs. The pages were silky smooth, like quality printing paper. I picked it up randomly from my TBR pile last night… and read it until 2AM, when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer… then picked it right back up this morning.
I was intrigued. I was haunted. I was picking up pieces of a puzzle, hearing echoes, listening to rumors and letting my imagination run wild. It’s a terrific mystery, in my opinion, changing shape as it gets bigger. Extremely fast paced and moving quickly around the chess board – you’re never sure if you’re the pawn or the queen. I loved it. I loved its rather ambiguous ending – What is true and what is myth?
Ironically, the characters are rather boring and cliche. In a way, this worked very well with the theme – that what we imagine, the stories we tell ourselves and are entertained by, reveal more of our true natures than our daily lives. None of the three main characters were that compelling – but what drove them, what caught them up in the mystery, how they each were pulled in by it and changed – that was fascinating. The people they encountered, the enigmas they attempted to decipher… the secrets, which often revealed themselves to be sour disappoints or shoddy ordinary events, doubled down on this theme – these things were dazzling and full of life. The mystery solved is boring. Answers do not enchant us – what ifs do.
So if you like mystery – and dark turns down darker passages – that don’t rely on descriptions of gore or horror, but rather the implication of such – then this book is for you.