The Dive | Sara Ochs

Composite pic of author Sara Ochs and the cover of her debut thriller The Dive

The Dive has a powerful and dramatic opening that sets the tone for the whole narrative.

There’s no slow build-up here, but rather a tension that grips the reader immediately and doesn’t let go.

This sensation is enhanced by a feeling of claustrophobia on the isolated Thai island of Koh Sang. In fact, the setting is so well depicted by Sara Ochs that I actually investigated whether or not it was a real place.

There’s an intimacy created through Cass and Brooke’s first-person accounts that leaves the reader wondering how far they can be trusted, adding to the tension in the story.

Indeed, I suspected all the characters in The Dive of being murderers, because Ochs uncovers their past lives with such skill that any one of them could be capable of extreme behaviour.

Surprisingly enthralling characters

All the characters are flawed, often unpleasant and surprisingly enthralling. Every time I’d decided whether they were good or evil, Ochs completely wrong-footed me, drawing me further into the narrative.

Cass and Brooke’s voices are clear and compelling. As their past lives are uncovered, it’s hard not to empathise with them even at their most iniquitous.

I loved the title. While it refers to a dive that acts as a catalyst for the plot, the themes are also all part of a metaphorical dive.

Characters are diving into relationships and hasty decisions. The story dives into the characters’ past lives, uncovering why they behave as they do. As the body count rises, Brooke’s investigations dive into the frequently duplicitous behaviour of the other characters in a truly compelling story.

Hurtling along to a chilling ending

Aside from being a murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing throughout, The Dive considers how we become who we become, how identity is created and the role social media plays in our lives.

Ochs looks at revenge, control, corruption and relationships. She uncovers the layer of reality that underpins a seemingly hedonistic and attractive lifestyle.

This book is billed as the debut thriller of 2023, and I have to agree. It hurtles along to a chilling ending that will have readers looking nervously over their shoulders as they go on holiday.

The Dive is gripping, exciting and entertaining – so much so that I won’t be heading to a scuba diving school in a hurry!

The Dive by Sara Ochs is published by Penguin, £12.49 HB.

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