2021 Reading List: Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

When they say this is a page-turner, they aren’t lying. Once I got about halfway through this book, I literally could not put it down. I just had to know what was going to happen.

Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman, is a thriller about a couple who goes on their honeymoon to Bora Bora and finds a mysterious bag floating in the water while they are out on a scuba diving day-trip. What happens next is probably what would happen for anyone who found several million dollars unclaimed in the ocean.

Erin is a filmmaker, currently doing a documentary about the transition to the world after prisoners are released. Her soon to be husband, Mark, works at a large bank. But right before their wedding, he loses his job and has a hard time finding a new one due to the politics around his exit. He is suddenly extremely worried about their finances and their future and makes some pretty harsh decisions to completely change their wedding venue, skimp on the food, and cut their honeymoon in half. Erin is mad at first, but he points out the actual numbers – how much she makes, how much savings they have, how much their house costs – and she comes around.

She really comes across as a bit ditsy and out of the loop, considering she’s a documentarian and she’s supposed to be good at noticing details, managing projects, sticking to film budgets. It’s like she’s so blinded by her love for this man that she lets herself stay out of tune with her whole personal life.

Mark’s hysteria over losing his job seems a little unnecessary to me. Sure, it really sucks, they wanted a nice wedding and to start out their lives together and plan for their future. But he should be able to move on and stay positive, and he’ll find another job eventually.

So they go to Bora Bora for their honeymoon and have a fabulous time. Erin gets over her panic about scuba diving and they go out to dive, taking a boat out about an hour away. On their way back they find a bag floating with some mysterious papers out in the middle of the ocean. When they come back to the location the next day, they find an airplane beneath the surface, crashed, supposedly with people inside. I say supposedly because Mark was the only one who saw them and now that I’ve finished the book, I’m not sure I can trust anything he said anymore.

So what do they do with the bag? Well first they try to do the right thing and turn it in to the hotel. But the hotel staff misunderstands and keep giving it back to them. So what else to do but open it, right? Inside they find a million dollars cash, two million dollars worth of 2 carat diamonds, a gun, a cell phone and a USB drive.

They are suddenly transformed into people so desperate for money that they become criminals. It’s amazing what money will do to people, mess with their heads. They want to keep the money so badly that they try to cover their tracks and erase their involvement. They destroy their files at the hotel and leave early.

When they get back home, they set up a Swiss bank account to deposit the money and use it subsequently for transactions into their own person accounts as freelance payments. Erin continues working on the documentary, but ends up involved with her subject’s breaking of parole and terrorism scheme, which adds to her paranoia that they’re going to be caught or that someone is after them trying to get the money back.

But her job also puts her in touch with a prisoner who was part of a world-renowned gang for decades so he knows all the secret to the trade. He actually helps her find a buyer for the diamonds and figure out what to do with the USB when the “plane people” come looking for it.

Despite the fact that this book was so good I couldn’t put it down, I had some major qualms with some pieces of it.

First of all, I don’t know why she wasn’t suspicious of Mark sooner. I caught on early that there was something up with him. His demeanor suddenly changed, he suddenly decided he didn’t care about money, he was putting Erin out in public as the face of this crime. She just played dumbly along, distracted and preoccupied.

Secondly, I’m annoyed that we never find out what was on the USB. I’m annoyed that the “plane people” are never defined. I’m annoyed that they don’t care about their money or their diamonds and also that they’ll pay more money in order to get the USB back, as if just saying “you can keep all our other stuff in exchange for our USB” isn’t enough. I’m annoyed that after Mark can’t give them the coordinates of the crashed plane in the ocean, they just drop it, and they don’t continue to look for Erin, track her down or kill her.

Thirdly, I’m kind of shocked that they got so greedy that they kept trying to get more and more money out of this group of criminals. I don’t understand why they couldn’t stop once they had the cash deposited into the bank. Get rid of the diamonds, get rid of the phone and the USB, move on. Give it all back to the people it came from and don’t look back. I truly don’t understand why Erin kept opening the phone, tried to find out what was on the USB, actually got herself a gun and was so intent on doing an exchange in order to get more money. If I were her, I would have just handed everything over that they asked for and walked away. She already had a million dollars in the bank.

Lastly, the book ended nicely with Erin figuring it all out herself. She came to realize on her own that her husband was playing her and deceiving her. But she couldn’t figure out why he’d stopped loving her, why he wanted to siphon all this money for himself and move to New York, why the money had changed him in so many fundamental ways that he didn’t even want to be with her anymore. And she never got a chance to find that out because he was dead.

And also – where did the plane people go?! If they were really bad people, they wouldn’t let Erin go alive, walking around with the knowledge of coordinates of the plane crash. If they wanted those coordinates so badly, then there must have been something else incriminating in that plane, still under the ocean. If they were good at their job, they would have realized that Mark and Erin were a couple. They would have done their research. They would have known that even if they killed Mark, Erin could always still be a problem, even if Mark said she wasn’t. They weren’t doing their due diligence.

Overall though, great book. Highly recommend.