Title: The Deep
Author: Alma Katsu
From the back: Someone – or something – is haunting the Titanic.
Deaths and disappearances have plagued the vast liner from the moment she began her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. Four days later, caught in what feels like an eerie, unsettling twilight zone, some passengers – including millionaire Madeleine Astor and maid Annie Hebbley – are convinced that something sinister is afoot. And then disaster strikes.
Four years later and the world is at war. Having survived that fateful night, Annie is now a nurse on board the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, refitted as a hospital ship. And she is about to realise that those demons from her past and the terrors of that doomed voyage have not finished with her yet . . .
Bringing together Faustian pacts, the occult, tales of sirens and selkies, guilt and revenge, desire and destiny, The Deep offers a thrilling, tantalizing twist on one of the world’s most famous tragedies.
The gist: If you’re familiar with Katsu’s The Hunger, an historical horror novel following the Donner Party’s stark trek across America, then you’ll be expecting good things from her novel The Deep, and you’ll surely not be disappointed.
I’m not much of a reader of historical fiction. I’m not into period drama, and there feels to me to be a fine, delicate line to tread when dealing with the blurring of fiction and fact, of the stories of real people’s lives entwined with the ghosts of a writer’s mind.
But Katsu writes so beautifully and treats the history with such care, that the results are hauntingly good. She weaves supernatural and horror elements into the story deftly, and the real people and settings are rendered with the depth and character that is borne of research and respect. On reading both The Hunger and The Deep, Katsu made me want to find out more about the events and the history of the events she’d incorporated in the books. Katsu made me want to know more.
The Deep captures a sense of horror not just from the supernatural elements, but from the isolation and sheer sense of scale of boats in icy seas. When something that feels so huge in human terms is dwarfed to the point of a pin-prick by nature’s own flex of size and power, it taps into a primal fear. You have no power in this land, and this land will do what it will with you.
One of my primal fears, anyway – I can count the number of times I’ve been on a boat on one hand. And that’s counting the time I capsized out of a kayak when I was younger, screaming for help without realising I likely could have just stood on the bottom in the muddy water rather than flail and shout and panic that maybe the life jacket is broken and do you get sharks in ponds in England and oh-my-God-have-they-heard-me-yet? Better safe than sorry though, right?
Regardless of my own fears of vast expanses of water, Katsu deftly captures a sense of place, time, and horror, weaving in a narrative of ghosts and love and tragedy. I can highly recommend you pick this up to satisfy your supernatural, historical horror needs.
Favourite line: But there is something in her that is hospitable to madness.
Read if: You want your supernatural horror delicately woven with the scale and horror of a real life tragedy.
Read with: The security of knowing you have no sea-faring trips planned any time soon. Hopefully.
Get it: The Deep by Alma Katsu