ARC Review – A Surf Thriller

The Swell by Allie Reynolds

Alternate Title: The Bay

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Summary from NetGalley:

Point Break meets And Then There Were None in a pulse-pounding beach read that explores the dangerous ties between a group of elite surfers who are determined to find the perfect waves at any cost…even murder.

The waves are to die for.

Three years ago, passionate surfer Kenna Ward lost her two great loves—after her boyfriend drowned, she hung up her surfboard and swore off the water for good. But she is drawn back to the beach when her best friend, Mikki, announces her sudden engagement to a man Kenna has never met—a member of a tight-knit group of surfers. Kenna travels to a remote Australian beach, entering a dangerous world far from civilization where the waves, weather, and tides are all that matter. Kenna is tempted back into the surf, and drawn into the dazzling group and the beach they call their own.

But this coastal paradise has a dark side, and members of the group begin to go missing. Kenna realizes that in order to protect Mikki and learn more about the surfers, she must become one of them…without becoming one of their victims. What follows is an adrenaline-fueled thriller packed with twists and turns, exploring the dangerous edge between passion and obsession.

ARC provided by Penguin Group via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

Just so those of you outside of the US reading this won’t be confused, The Swell is the US title for The Bay. Not sure why they changed the title, as I think The Bay fits the story better. This is being touted as a thriller, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark on that score. It is however a good story and certainly worthy of a read, especially on a remote beach somewhere.

Kenna is an interesting character and is basically the narrator of this story. I saw a few other reviewers complaining that she isn’t very likable, and she kind of isn’t. But when I think about her background and why she is where she is, I kind of get her and even like her, to a point. She really does have her best friend’s interest at heart, but I think she could have handled things a bit better and even confronted Nikki sooner than she did. Kenna is stronger than she thinks and she finds herself in a difficult situation in which she doesn’t know who to trust or even if she should trust them.

There are a few chapters told from the other characters perspectives, which were interesting and sometime too revealing of what was really going on in that secret surf spot. In fact there was one really big reveal that happened in the middle of the book, by one of the characters that kind of ruined the rest of the plot. And it didn’t even make sense to put it there as it felt totally out of context. But it was interesting to spend at least a few pages in the other characters minds, as you got a better sense of who they were on their terms, not just what Kenna thought of them. They were not a likable bunch and they all had secrets both in the past and the present.

Characters aside, the setting was really the star of the show and was what kept me interested in the story. I have never been to Australia, but I was totally captivated by the descriptions of how desolate and isolated the setting was. The author’s descriptions of surfing and the beauty of the ocean and it’s ever changing moods was wonderfully done and helped to immerse you in the story.

The plot just never gelled for me into what I would consider a thriller. I never got that sitting on the edge of my seat sense that I love so much. I think part of this was do to that big reveal before things started heating up. Once you know who did it there is no urgency to the rest of the story. I did really like the descriptions of the surfing and of the other thrill seeking things they did. Those were well done. The ending also felt off, there really was no resolution to the murders which just felt weird and unfinished to me.

Overall I don’t think this was a bad story, just one that needed a little more to make it a thriller. I still recommend it though, especially if you like stories with wonderful settings and interesting characters.

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