Deep water by Sarah Epstein
Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760877286.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Chloe misses her friend Henry and is determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Following a violent storm one night, the only clue to Henry's whereabouts is his mountain bike leaning against the train station wall. Did he just leave, as he once hinted he might do, or did something terrible happen to him?
Epstein's novel switches between Chloe narrating in the present, and past snippets of Henry's online messages with a mysterious friend, and chapters about Henry's brother Mason in the lead-up to the eventful night. Both Henry and Mason suffer from abuse by their alcoholic mother Ivy. The early scenes depicting their home life are so ugly, with no insight into any redeeming characteristics for their mother, that some readers may find it hard to engage with the narrative, but once past those pages, the mystery about Henry's disappearance, and the clues that Chloe unearths, leads the reader on a twisting path of suspicion and conjecture that holds our attention until the last pages.
Chloe's detective work points to Mason; and we know that Mason himself is afraid of his own anger. Is he a product of his parents - son of an abusive mother and a criminal father: is he bad, empty, worthless? Is he set on a path that he cannot change?
Chloe and her circle of friends gradually uncover the events of the night of the big storm, there are many misleading clues and red herrings that Chloe determinedly investigates one after another. No adult seems willing to help. Suspicions turn from one person to another, but most suspicious of all is Mason, the boy within their friendship group. Chloe does not give up, until suddenly she finds herself confronting a danger she had not predicted.
This is an engaging mystery thriller that readers of this genre will thoroughly enjoy. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Murder, Mystery, Child abuse, Anger management.