Tidepool

Nicole Willson. Parliament House, $6.99 e-book (256p) ASIN B08L6YNSN6

Willson’s debut sets out to deliver feel-good, feminist Lovecraftian horror, but suffers from uneven execution. In 1913 Baltimore, headstrong Sorrow Hamilton idolizes reporter Nellie Bly and feels stifled by her overprotective yet distant father. When her beloved older brother, Henry, disappears while on a business trip to the tiny seaside town of Tidepool, Sorrow sneaks away to investigate. Tidepool is tiny, shabby, and stinks of rotting fish—and Sorrow is certain its unfriendly inhabitants know what happened to Henry. Every thread she pulls seems to connects back to Mrs. Ada Oliver, a mysterious widow whose black silk dresses are decades out of date. But when a mutilated body washes up on shore, Sorrow discovers that Mrs. Oliver may not be the most frightening thing in Tidepool after all. Willson’s plot hits all the right beats, but suffers from a lackluster protagonist; readers will be much more interested in enigmatic antihero Mrs. Oliver than in bland Sorrow. Devotees of cosmic horror will enjoy this woman-centered take on familiar tropes, but others can safely skip it. (Aug.)
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