Day Four. Book Review

day4DAY FOUR by Sarah Lotz
Hodder & Stoughton, h/b, 360pp, £14.99
Reviewed by Chris Limb

The Foveros liner Beautiful Dreamer leaves Miami on 28 December, promising a New Year’s cruise of rest, relaxation and above all fun. There’s a casino, cabaret and even séances from on board psychic, America’s number one medium Celine Del Ray.

Unfortunately there also seems to be a serial killer on board. When the ship stops dead four days into the cruise things start to go from bad to worse. The engine and communications failures seem irreparable and it’s not long before the toilets stop working. Why has no-one come to look for them? How long is the food going to last? Will the killer strike again? And have Celine’s “gifts” become real?

Day Four takes place in the same world as the events of Black Thursday from The Three (which also features Celine Del Ray) but it isn’t a direct sequel and could just as easily be enjoyed as a standalone novel.

Unlike its predecessor – which consisted of a book within a book found footage style – the bulk of Day Four‘s narrative has more of a traditional format. The points of view cycle through a fixed set of protagonists which gives the story momentum and allows the reader access to more information than the characters. However, for much of the novel the reader is thankfully kept very much in the dark as to the exact nature of the threat and has to work out what might really be going on from the events unfolding – a master class of showing not telling.

Whilst The Three was world-spanning in its scope, Day Four is far more claustrophobic in feel and yet – by the end – has just as much potential for shaking the world views of characters and readers alike. The growing tension as yet another day passes with no sign of rescue is exacerbated by the relentlessly cheery on-board announcements made by cruise director Damien. The depiction of the way that the thin veneer of civilized behaviour begins to fray when people are put under pressure will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to wait for a severely delayed aircraft, the frustrated aggression here turned up to maximum as the Beautiful Dreamer’s passengers form cliques and alliances, colonising the upper decks when the smell of sewage in the lower ones becomes too much to bear.

The final section of Day Four returns to the found-footage style of The Three and it here that some more pieces of the puzzle are discovered – and where the reader realises that far more is at stake than a missing cruise liner. This section and the chilling coda bring into focus some of the more mysterious elements hinted at in The Three and it is to be hoped that more of the enigma is revealed in Lotz’s next novel.

Day Four is an eerie and absorbing (if disturbing) page-turner that has the capacity to really get under the reader’s skin.