cover image Dark Echo

Dark Echo

F.G. Cottam, St. Martin's/Dunne, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-54433-1

When businessman Magnus Stannard buys Dark Echo, a haunted yacht, at the start of Cottam's overstuffed occult thriller, it fulfills a dream from his impoverished childhood: to own the luxury boat he saw in one of his favorite books. But Dark Echo's American builder, WWI hero Harry Spalding, had an unsavory history of evil exploits, and everyone who's owned the ship since his suicide has suffered misfortune and a grim death. Magnus and his son, Martin, become the latest victims of the yacht's malignant legacy when, after setting out in it to cross the Atlantic, the ship reveals the malevolent mission it has chosen them to complete. Cottam (The House of Lost Souls) works up a byzantine backstory for his spook ship that's imaginatively complex, but that thwarts thrills with its confusing historical detail, digressions into Martin and Magnus's relationship, and shifts of narrative viewpoint. What could have been an exceptional tale of maritime terrors reads more like a horror story adrift at sea. (Aug.)