A curious novel set in FRANCE
Thriller set on fictional Koh Sang, an island in THAILAND
22nd May 2023
The Dive by Sara Ochs, thriller set on fictional Koh Sang, an island in Thailand.
The author visited Koh Tao, which, she discovered, has been trying to rehabilitate itself after the murder of a British couple back in 2014. Two illegal Burmese workers were arrested and convicted of killing them. There was much criticism of the police handling of the deaths and a prevailing sense that someone – anyone – had to be brought to justice, so that the island could get on with its remit of entertaining tourists. The conviction felt very unsafe. The author transposes the set up of murder, the ramifications on the island’s tourism industry and the ineptitude of the examining officers onto her fictional island. She explores the whole culture of people passing through, as opposed to the permanents, working there to make a living, whilst offering a great visitor experience.
The island makes for a great setting, as it is, to all intents and purposes, a kind of locked-island mystery, especially as a storm piles in as the clues accrue towards the end.
Cassie is engaged to Logan and works at the dive school on the island. There are indications early on that she is not who she seems. Newcomer Brooke is a social media influencer and soon the two women are firm friends.
Cassie, knowing she is walking a very precarious line given her history and then she becomes alarmed by messages alluding to her past that start to appear on her doorstep. Who on the island could have uncovered her history when she has gone to such lengths to disguise her provenance?
Death has already come knocking on the island: a woman called Jacinta fell to her death a little while ago, And now, Cassie has just discovered the drowned body of a woman called Lucy, and then another character breathes his last in a back alley. Who is behind all these deaths?
There are many twists and turns along the way, people enter the frame of culpability, hypotheses are fleshed out and tensions mount. One character is struggling with their addiction to Xanax (a medicine that is designed to reduce anxiety) but it can severely affect judgement.
I enjoyed the story, the setting feels very real and with a dive school at its heart, it has a lot to offer. It will certainly take you back to a typical Thai island for a dose of free living beach life.
There was one aspect where I felt the author floundered a little, an issue which the publisher/editor might have thought to address? There were just too many coincidences that pushed the bounds of credibility – at the heart of the story is a gold ring, which is found by coincidence in the sea. Now, if you have ever looked for something in the sea – even where the waters are really clear – it would take quite some searching, as the sand whips up, the sea sucks at its sandy base and covers small items with ease. A conversation is overheard and it is a discussion that in all likelihood will have added another piece to the convoluted jigsaw. A further body is found and the victim’s phone is whipped out of a pocket and fortunately it’s not locked, so it can divulge useful information. I think in more experienced hands, these issues would have been handled in a more convincing way.
The characters aren’t particularly fleshed out but that is probably a way of highlighting the pass-through nature of people who come and go at a great rate on holiday islands like these – fleeting encounters don’t allow for in-depth character studies.
A good pool-side novel – I did want to know how things panned out – and one to take if you have a dive trip planned any time soon! I look forward to seeing where this author goes next.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Catch the author on Twitter @Ochswrites and on IG @saraochsauthor
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