‘Dark and Shallow Lies’ is both an interesting thriller and an off-putting romance


Photo Courtesy of Razorbill

Emil Fang, Arts Writer

  Author Ginny Myers Sain made her debut with the novel Dark and Shallow Lies on Sept. 7, 2021. The book is a thriller that takes place in a small town, named La Cachette, in a Louisiana swamp where psychic powers are commonplace. It follows a teenager named Grey as she returns home to solve her friend Elora’s disappearance. 

  The book focuses on three characters, Grey, Hart, and one mysterious character who shows up later in the story. Hart is Elora’s older step brother who plays a key role in the story.

One of the book’s strengths is its world-building. The town of La Cachette feels alive and vibrant with lifelike descriptions of its scenery and buildings. Its location in the middle of a swamp is very unique and is not typically seen in many novels. It’s also in the middle of the roaring Mississippi River and only accessible by boat.  The remote location of the town also plays very well into the thriller genre of the book. The friendly atmosphere that the town exudes at first is quickly replaced by an atmosphere of fear and dread as the story progresses. 

Dark and Shallow Lies masters foreshadowing. Dark and Shallow Lies implements something unique before every chapter in the book—before each chapter is a small amount of text which alludes to something sinister lying within the small town of La Cachette. These texts all culminate in the final act of the book.  Throughout the story there are also easy-to-miss character actions that clue the reader that something sinister surrounds Elora’s disappearance. All of these actions pay off in the final act. The book’s foreshadowing is not always overbearing, allowing the reader to predict its ending. The foreshadowing is sometimes subtle and other times obvious.

Despite all its strengths, the book also contains many flaws—such as the surprise romance that shows up 100 pages into the book. I went into Dark and Shallow Lies blind. The book’s genre was paranormal fiction as well as young adult fiction. My expectation was that it would focus more on the paranormal aspect. However, throughout the book the romance becomes more and more prominent as you read. This catches the reader off guard because the book is marketed as a chilling thriller novel and the romance is only slightly foreshadowed in the beginning chapters. This can also get very uncomfortable to read, and robs the book of its tension because of how awkwardly placed the romantic moments are in the timeline of the story.

Another problem with the romance is that one of the love interests the book introduces does things that are downright creepy. He admits to having been watching the main character, Grey, for two weeks unseen when she first comes back to La Cachette, and watched her through her bedroom window at night once.  This stalkerish behavior is brushed past and she begins to trust him unconditionally.  The author also romanticizes teen drinking and smoking, with the character Hart almost always smoking in his appearances, and the teenage characters constantly being mentioned to have drank beer or gotten drunk.  

The book’s pacing is flawed as well. The pacing in the beginning is spectacular. Characters and key clues are quickly introduced and a sense of mystery is built up. This changes once you get to the middle chapters of the book. These chapters drag on, the clues stop coming, and the mystery that the beginning chapters worked to build begins to fade as the reader stops being engaged. In comparison to the middle chapters’ slow pace, the end chapters, while engaging, feel rushed. The pacing could have been fixed by cutting some of the filler the middle contains and spreading out the clues throughout the middle, instead of saturating them near the end. 

Dark and Shallow Lies is a fine thriller novel to read. But its odd romantic moments and its pacing may turn many readers away.