One Sentence Synopsis
After the mysterious death of her father, a young woman named Catriona heads into the seedy underbelly of Victorian London to discover what has happened.
“The river runs restless between the high stone walls enclosing it. As if it were a woman – refusing to be fixed in one spot yet hardly free.”
Having ended my Audible subscription some time ago, I often forget that I still have audiobooks on there that I need to read. In an effort to get through them, I started listening to some of the oldest ones I owned and The Darkwater Bride fit the bill. This full cast audiobook was a dark, intriguing tale and I’m glad I picked it up!
The story centers around a young woman named Catriona, who’s father is found dead in the Thames after visiting Victorian London for a business trip. Catriona isn’t convince that her father simply drowned, however. Everything about his death seems suspicious to her, so she heads into the city to do her own detective work. She ends up teaming up with the young policeman assigned to the case, Cully, and things turn to the dark and mysterious very quickly.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that the audio is absolutely incredible! As I said, it’s full cast, but it also has a soundtrack and sound effects that heighten the dark and foreboding atmosphere of the story. This is bound to give you a chill or two, so perfect for a quick, spooky read. I will say that this book leans heavily into the themes of sexism, misogyny, and abuse that women suffer at the hands of men. It’s not always an easy read and I think it could have done a bit more to address those issues. There were moments that read like they were only inserted for shock value and that’s one of my pet peeves when it comes to discussing these hard topics in fiction. That is, of course, my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
Still, I would have liked to see a little more agency and little less brainless “I’m a headstrong woman who don’t need no man!” from our main character. Like, yes, get your answers, girl, but maybe don’t purposely put yourself in situations where you are very likely to die when you have someone perfectly willing to help you. Even if it’s a man. It’s like the author was trying to make Catriona into this strong, feisty, determined woman, but at the cost of her intelligence. And Cully… dear, sweet, idiotic Cully. For a man that deals with the seedier side of Victorian London on the daily, he is shockingly naïve. I just feel like the characters could have used a little more nuance and this would have been at least a four star.
Final thoughts: Though this book deals with heavy topics and the characters could have done with a bit more nuance, this dark tale is something that definitely kept me in it’s grip the entire time I was reading it. I have to give props to the incredible audiobook for that. It was so atmospheric and set the perfect tone for this story. If you enjoy historical horror in audiobook format that takes a hard look at difficult topics and has the potential to give you genuine shivers, I think you would like The Darkwater Bride!