ARMCHAIR BOOK CLUB: Rollicking tale in Day Four

Heather Allen explores Day Four, a new novel by South African author, Sarah Lotz, which may not be great to read before a cruise.

If you are about to go on a cruise, do not read this column. Day Four, a new novel by South African author, Sarah Lotz will fill your mind with every conceivable disaster that could await you on your dream holiday.  If, on the other hand, you’re looking for entertaining reading on an Okanagan beach, this might be just the ticket.

Day Four begins as a ship’s crew promise passengers aboard the Beautiful Dreamer endless entertainment, relaxation and fun! fun! fun! Hundreds of passengers are invited to enjoy the spa, feast at five-star buffets, soak up the sun on excursions to a private island, snorkel in turquoise seas, horse-ride along beautiful beaches. All sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Days One, Two and Three pass by in  one sentence: “Cruise is relatively uneventful.”And then Day Four begins. A fire in the engine room cuts power, and the ship loses all communication with land. Amid clean up of flooding rooms and sewage back up, a ship housekeeper discovers the body of young woman. Not only are they adrift at sea, it seems a murderer is lurking somewhere on the ship.

And that’s just the beginning. Lotz is thorough in the variety of disasters she inflicts on her unsuspecting passengers — a list that includes a pair of elderly women planning to fulfill a suicide pact, a sexual predator, a world renowned medium who entertains by communing with the dead and the ship’s doctor who is a somewhat unsuccessful recovering drug addict.

On top of an unfortunate lack of security personnel and increasing panic, Lotz  inflicts  more misfortune on her passengers: the gulf of Mexico (containing potential rescue boats) is eerily abandoned, food runs low, toilets and taps don’t work, noro virus runs rampant through the ship and a storm approaches.

Despite the sense of approaching doom, Lotz drops in many darkly comic scenarios throughout the debacle. Day Four follows in the same vein as Lotz’s previous high-octane, bizarre and darkly funny thriller, The Three, that centred on an airline disaster.

Lotz, a screen writer as well as a novelist, isn’t afraid to take her stories to highly unusual and improbable places. So, if you’re looking for the story that stays anchored in reality, you might find Day Four goes somewhat adrift. But if you can handle ghosts and speaking to dead people, Day Four is an easy to read, rollicking tale pushed forward by a growing concern that these passengers may never in fact be rescued.

Thanks to the reader who suggested this summer read.

Heather Allen is an avid book reader and reviewer living

in Penticton.