About Close Reach
In a riveting tale of suspense and terror on the high seas, Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Moore pits human beings against nature—and something far deadlier: one another.
Kelly Pratihari-Reid and her husband sail their yacht into Antarctic waters, thinking their gravest concerns will be ice and storms—and their cracked marriage. A British girl shrieking across a short-range VHF frequency ends that illusion. It’s coming, she screams. It saw us and it’s coming back! Her voice is drowned by a tide of signal-jamming static, and Kelly sees a target on the radar screen: A ship is coming for them.
Thus begins an unforgettable cat-and-mouse game across stormy polar seas and dire landfalls. Kelly’s pursuers will test her to the limits of her endurance—and beyond. For the ship in her wake is crewed by pirates, with a young leader trained to use the most sadistic tortures in pursuit of his ultimate objective . . . a goal as shocking as it is horrific.
About the Author
Jonathan Moore and his wife, Maria Wang, live in Hawaii. When he's not writing, or fixing his boat, Jonathan is an attorney. Before completing law school in New Orleans, he was an English teacher, a whitewater raft guide on the Rio Grande, a counselor at a Texas wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C.
(This review is based on a copy of the book obtained from the publisher through NetGalley.)
Sailing the open waters of Antarctica can be a lonely gambit. Most pleasure seekers keep to the warmer climates, so finding other boats nearby can be rare. Desolate waters, untrafficked and unpoliced, are the perfect recipe for terror.
While sailing with her husband Dean, Kelly hears a distress call come through the boat's radio - a terrified young woman screaming "It's coming!" Then, death metal music clogs the airwaves and Kelly notices a new boat appear on their radar, following them. In short order, a beat-up, stained, rusted-out fishing trawler catches up with them and they see a naked corpse dangling from the side of the ship, and a man armed with a harpoon on-deck. So sets the stage of a frantic, visceral game of cat-and-mouse.
I'm a fan of the horror genre, and there are two particular sub-genres that really pique my interest - maritime horror, where the scares are built around the open sea and set aboard some type of boating vessel, and arctic horror, where the freezing climes are every bit as dangerous as the monster stalking its prey (Dead Calm and The Thing, respectively, are terrific cinematic examples of these particular horror genres, in my opinion). When I learned about Close Reach, deciding to give it a read was a total no-brainer.
The opening chapters combine the tension of the unknown looming threat with a bit of technical sophistication on sailing. Jonathan Moore is a sailor himself, and he's able to make the expository ins-and-outs of this craft readable by tying it seamlessly into the story and avoiding huge infodumps. While there's a lot of boating and sailing jargon throughout, I never found it obtrusive or distracting. Once things get going, though, the story really pumps into overdrive and Moore proves to be a virtuoso.
His monsters are entirely human, completely unsympathetic, and far too real for my liking. They're violent, methodical, and an almost always dangerous force. While not omnipotent, each appearance these pirates make is a finely crafted study in tension and makes Close Reach a white-knuckle suspense thriller. Their proficiency in torture and amoral baseness is utterly cringe-inducing. I was gripping my Kindle pretty hard and am thankful the device didn't snap in two as I went from page-to-page.
That's another testament to Moore's ability to tell a story like this. I usually see the term "grimdark" in relation to epic fantasy books, like George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie, but it is more than applicable here. Close Reach is unrelentingly dark and brutal, and I found myself wincing a few times at the escalation of violence and abuse. The subject matter and tone is oppressive, almost claustrophobic, but damn compelling.
If there's one knock against the book, it's that the villains, after having been built up so well in the preceding, seem too easily dispatched during the book's climax. This is only a slight flaw, however, and the work as a whole is strong enough for me to forgive this minor lapse. Moore makes up for it with a methodical, nerve-jangling finale that truly tugs on the heartstrings in more ways than one.