Welcome aboard the cruise ship from hell…
Editor Anne Perry introduces Sarah Lotz's terrifying thriller, DAY FOUR.
If you’re anything like me, the first thing you think of when you think about cruises is that scene from the beginning of Titanic, when we first see Rose looking up at the ship itself. The camera swoops down as the brim of her enormous, gorgeous hat tips up and it’s all very elegant and beautiful and timeless.
And then, of course, two hours later, the ship hits an iceberg and sinks and an old lady throws a priceless sapphire into the sea because of love, or something.
My point being, in my mind cruises are all about turn-of-the-century elegance, steamliners crossing the Atlantic over the course of a calm week, filled with champagne and long meals and sweeping dresses. The gentlemen are all in black tie, the ladies are dripping with diamonds, and everything is just gorgeous.
Of course, cruises have changed quite a bit from those days – there’s still an element of timeless elegance, there are still formal dinners, and one can still grab a glass of champagne if wanted. But cruising has also become an industry, which means that it has become a more affordable pastime… and occasionally a less elegant one. The Titanic serves as an extreme example, but things do go wrong on cruise ships in the modern day – sometimes very badly wrong.
For the characters in Sarah Lotz’s Day Four, however, things don’t just go badly wrong. They then get worse. Four days into a five-day singles cruise, the aeging ship Beautiful Dreamer goes dead in the water. The radios don’t work and there’s definitely no internet or cellular connectivity (weird, given our day and age, wouldn’t you say? Possibly even… creepy?). At first the passengers settle in to drink the ship dry and make the best of a weird situation. But then a dead body shows up. There’s a murderer loose on board… and if the famed psychic – and passenger – Celiene del Ray is to be believed, maybe something worse.
Sarah Lotz exploded onto the thriller scene last year with The Three, her powerful, creepy thriller about four planes that crash at virtually the same moment around the world, leaving only three survivors and the desperate search for a possible fourth. There the catastrophe is global and far-reaching. In Day Four, however, the horror is of an entirely different kind: it’s focused, claustrophobic, and very, very personal. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of several characters – the Witch’s Assistant, the Devil’s Handmaiden, the Condemned Man, the Suicide Sisters, the Angel of Mercy. Their titles hint at their personal demons, but their stories are much broader, and much more surprising. Everyone has something to hide, but secrets are hard to keep when you’re stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean with no way to call for help…
Stephen King called the Beautiful Dreamer ‘the cruise ship from hell’ and, on 11 February, you’ll be able to find out why.
Day Four publishes Thursday, 11 February, in paperback everywhere.