Lies Beneath, by Anne Greenwood Brown

Before I read Anne Greenwood Brown's novel Lies Beneath, I would have assumed that any book about killer mermaids from Wisconsin had to be campy. Ms. Brown's book has proved me wrong; Lies Beneath has its faults (and plenty of 'em), but it takes itself quite seriously.

Lies Beneath is told from the point of view of Calder White, a teenage merman living in the icy waters of Lake Superior with his three sisters. The Whites survive by drowning random humans and absorbing their positive emotions, but their next killing is going to be motivated by revenge: they're determined to murder Jason Hancock, the man they hold responsible for their mother's death. Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily, using her as unwitting bait to lure her father onto the lake. Calder's plans begin to fall apart as Lily becomes more than just another victim, but his sisters have no intention of giving up...

Lies Beneath is heady reading, but (like too many of the YA books I've read recently) it makes depressingly little sense. The characters' actions take place in a vacuum, and while I enjoyed reading a supernatural romance from the monster's point of view, I had trouble picturing Calder's life before or after the book's events. I mean, apart from killing people and swimming, what does he do all day? Does Lily really want a boyfriend without a family, home, or education, who will age at one-third the rate she does, and who never watches TV? And—oh, right—who happens to be a serial killer? I mean, what are they going to do on a Tuesday night, you know?

Once again, I wish a really great editor had caught this story earlier in its creative lifespan, and forced the author to re-work her entire plot into something worthier of such a gloriously weird premise. There were things I really liked about this book: Calder's occasional fish-out-of-water confusion over human interactions was fun, and the author paints a picture of Wisconsin that makes it seem like the kind of spooky, otherworldly place that deserves a good seductive monster myth (well, more so than Forks, anyway). Unfortunately, the positive elements of Lies Beneath were far outweighed by the negatives, but—to do Ms. Brown justice—at least the initial ingredients were interesting enough that I'll be keeping an eye out for her future work.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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