I enjoyed Jeremy Bates’s World’s Scariest Places series, which are exciting horror books set in real life scary places, such as Japan’s Suicide Forest, or the catacombs under Paris.
Therefore I looked forward to reading his World’s Scariest Legends series, and horror merfolk seemed like a good place to start.
Millionaire marine biologist, Marty Murdock, lives on a boat in Sri Lanka searching for evidence of aquatic apes (mermaids). When Dr Elsa Montero finds something strange in a shark’s stomach, journalist Jacky DeSilva persuades Elsa to join forces with Marty, local tv personality Rad Fernandez, and Marty’s research assistant Pip, in order to track down the origin of the shark’s last meal.
This book has all the hallmarks of a great thriller. A strong hook – is that a mermaid in a shark’s stomach? A pseudoscientific premise – merfolk are aquatic apes! And a motivated cast of characters – Marty has dedicated his life to proving his theory, Elsa is sufficiently convinced by her discovery to join him.
Unfortunately, Merfolk fails to come together as either a horror or a scientific thriller. It has a strong opening, and the last 30% of the book has lots of action and merfolk, but the rest seems like filler. Marty’s millions means that the characters have no difficulty getting everything they need and set out mermaid hunting in luxury. There is more focus on the love triangle between Marty, Jacky and Rad than on the merfolk, and there are several instances where the shallow description of the female characters jars.
While the ending delivers in spades, it is very different in tone from what came before it. More akin to the fun horror adventures that made World’s Scariest Places so enjoyable, I wish that Bates had elaborated that story and cut out the numerous chapters about playboy Marty ogling his boat babes.
I would have struggled to finish this book if I hadn’t been so eager to get to the killer mermaids. I had lots of time to think about what merfolk would be like if they really existed while I waited for them to appear.
I award Merfolk…