‘Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave? Wonder no longer. It takes an age …”


There’s nothing better than a good opener and, in this, debut novelist Catherine Steadman doesn’t disappoint, drawing us in from the very first line of the highly acclaimed Something in the Water. (Who doesn’t love a good grave digging scene?) From here, she takes us on a journey back to the events that led up to that scene, and beyond.

Protagonists filmmaker Erin and investment banker Mark are seemingly the golden couple. While their friends are going through particularly challenging times, they appear to thrive. Mark’s started a new job, Erin’s involved in an exciting documentary and they’re about to get married. What could possibly go wrong? Well, it’s a crime novel so of course we know something will.

Steadman gradually builds up the couple’s world, detailing the minutiae, even down to what they’re going to eat and drink at their wedding reception, so that by the time that we follow them to their honeymoon destination of Bora Bora, Erin and Mark are fully formed, albeit not particularly empathetic characters – and we can see the fissures in their relationship. When they find ‘something in the water’ while out scuba diving, something that’s life changing, they decide to keep it a secret, and that’s when the fissures start to become rifts.

Something in the Water is slow-burning, which is a surprise given the amount of dialogue and locations – and yet perhaps not. It’s extremely filmic, the author providing us with a lot of information so that the scenes are clearly set and everything well-defined – and, in many ways, it feels more like the makings of an over-extended screenplay rather than a novel. That’s possibly not a s surprise given that Steadman is herself an actress of Downton Abbey and Tutankhamun fame.

We liked it – it’s well-written, well-plotted and the characters and dialogue are engaging. Throw in a few lovely locations, from Nelson’s north Norfolk to French Polynesia, and how can one really go wrong? Certainly it has been highly praised: Reese Witherspoon’s endorsed it, it’s on the WH Smith Richard and Judy Book Club list and it’ll adapt well to the big screen. Take it on holiday. It’s the perfect poolside read.


Something in the Water | Catherine Steadman | Simon & Schuster UK | 16 May 2019 | paperback | £8.99 |

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Acknowledgements: Quoted book text © Catherine Steadman 2018. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour arranged by lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. And many thanks also to the publisher for sending a review copy and cover image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.


Also of interest:The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’; ‘The Killer You Know, SR Masters’ friendship noir’; ‘The Way of All Flesh’; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Blood Orange’; Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.



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