As a character driven mystery novel Yannick Murphy’s This Is the Water works as long as you enjoy the unique voice in which the novel unfolds. Murphy tells the novel in declarative statements, utilizing the second-person perspective. And while it make take a few pages to really adjust to this different want of storytelling, once you get used to it, it works fairly well.
At least, until it doesn’t. At about the mid-point of the novel, I found the novelty of this technique beginning to wear off a bit. Or it could have been that I was growing weary of waiting for something to happen in the novel. If you’re looking for a hard-edged, fast-paced mystery odds are you won’t like this one. If you’re looking for a novel that examines a criminal act and its impact on the characters and community, this one may be a hit with you.
The novel centers on a swim team and the various people whose lives are affected by it. Murphy does a nice job of developing the characters in the first third of the novel so that when the murder of a member of the team happens readers will feel a bit of the anger, hurt and uncertainty that the characters feel. And while the novel has a central figure in Annie, the conflicted mother who wonders why her husband isn’t giving her the affection she wants and whether she’s attracted to the husband of a friend, the middle third of this novel feels less like it’s developing the characters and situations from the first third and more like it’s treading water (pun not intended).
It’s at this point that the narration hook goes from clever to a bit redundant and when I found myself beginning to lose interest in things. Murphy throws in a couple of huge red herrings and I did make it to the end, but at times it was a bit of a struggle.
It’s a shame because I feel like the book has a lot of potential, I’m just not sure it was well realized.