Goodreads: Songs from the Deep
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
A girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.
The sea holds many secrets.
Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.
Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.
I was tempted to DNF Songs from the Deep for a large portion of the book, and in fact only finished reading it because it was still in my bag at a point in time I needed something to read and had nothing else with me. The book is, frankly, nothing exemplary, and from the prose to the characters to the general plot sounded exactly like dozens of mid-list YA novels I might have pulled off the shelf in 2012. In a YA market that is so robust and has recently released incredible books like Six of Crows and Stepsister and Echo North, Songs from the Deep is surprisingly generic.
The book starts out predictably: a girl whose father has died and who has a distant relationship with her mother rekindles her friendship with the handsome lighthouse keeper, whose parents are, of course, also dead. The two used to be friends but are no longer (for reasons the protagonist/character refuse to reveal in a poor attempt to maintain some suspense), but they are thrown together by a mysterious death. The town blames sirens. The protagonist, of course, loves sirens, is the daughter of a local expert on sirens, and sees the beauty in these dangerous creatures when few others do. She knows the sirens didn’t do it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but so many of the big picture plot pieces and the details are simply not new elements in YA. The book’s only grip on me was, once I had made it about 50% of the way through the book, I sort of wanted to finish to wrap up the mystery of the murder. The problem is: I had predicted the murderer from the start, and I ended up being right. There’s foreshadowing and clues and there’s just…a very obvious mystery.
The book also suffers from lack of logic, one of my biggest pet peeves. I don’t expect characters to act 100% rationally 100% of the time, but I can’t stand when they do obviously stupid things that I can’t imagine making sense to anyone…and the author/narrative voice gives the sense that it’s normal and they’re not behaving illogically at all. My biggest example of this would be a spoiler for the book, but overall it’s surprising that the main characters themselves weren’t murdered for the way they handled their amateur investigation.
Sirens are cool. Stories in small towns by the sea always have a niche audience. I just didn’t enjoy this one at all.