The Stowaway by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth is a crime thriller about a woman who was on a jury panel that couldn’t agree on the guilty verdict without reasonable doubt, which led to the release of a seemingly treacherous child killer. As the case takes a psychological toll on this specific juror, she decides to take a sabbatical and go on a vacation cruise with her family, where child murders that are suspiciously similar to the accused’s MO begin to occur. As residual tension from that case begins to haunt the juror, she realises it’s up to her to right an excruciatingly terrifying wrong.
I read this back in November when I was craving unconventional thrillers. I had never read a crime thriller that took place on a cruise ship, and that was the biggest draw for me with The Stowaway. Overall, even though I went into this with low expectations, it ended up being quite an enjoyable suspense story. My favourite elements were the fast-paced, keep-you-guessing writing, and then the unconventional bits that further cemented my interest to the point where I basically binge-read this in two or three long sittings, which is supremely uncommon for me due to ADHD.
So, the book picks up smack dab in the middle of the verdict deliberations and that was a fantastic way to grab my attention. After that, reading about the shitstorm that came from the actual verdict and the fallout that the whole jury—particularly are main protagonist juror—had to undergo was positively thrilling. It incited feelings of pressure and excitement interspersed with a dark anticipation to know more as we wait for the inevitable killings to start happening again, all the while wondering if it’s the same criminal or someone else, whether they had the correct person in custody and on trial to begin with, and many others along the same vein, and because it’s all written in a rather straightforward and simplistic prose, it makes it that much easier to escape into the pages.
While certain aspects were predictable, such as some of the folx that would eventually get the axe to the neck (metaphorically speaking), most of the other stuff kept me unsure, which is always a really nice feeling when reading thrillers. If they get too predictable, then upon reaching the ending, I tend to be disappointed and unsatisfied. Nevertheless, I never experienced those negative things when I wrapped up The Stowaway.
If there’s anything in the novel I didn’t like, aside from being able to ascertain who would end up being expendable, it would have to be the gruesome nature of the child deaths. While this didn’t really bother me personally (it takes a lot to truly shock me or make me incredibly uncomfortable), I know that it shall make it a challenging read for some people, especially if one’s ever gone through a violent trauma themselves or if one’s a parent. The authors didn’t hold back on some of the more grotesque descriptions of corpses and killing methods. Again, I appreciate this as a fan of crime thrillers, but it won’t be everyone’s cup o’ chai.
All in all, I’d HIGHLY RECOMMEND The Stowaway to bibliophiles that enjoy the crime fiction and suspense thriller genres, and readers that are just in the mood for something quick-paced yet ominously exhilarating to dive into, more so if you want to read but have limited time available for it.
Publication date: September 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (978-1250263650)
Genre: Crime Thriller, Suspense
Page Count: 320
Content Warnings: News media and social media gaslighting. Some strong language. Graphic descriptions of dead bodies, including bodies of children, which centre on child abuse, dismemberment, and exsanguination. Some strong action and bodily harm descriptives. Preparation and consumption of food and alcohol. Brief chapter of severe domestic violence. Strong depictions of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and paranoia.
Availability: In-print; Hardcover, eBook, and audiobook formats available.