Thresher – Michael Cole (Review)

thresher.pngSome things just naturally belong together: horses and carriages, swallows and summer, quiet seaside towns that need a lucrative tourist season and giant shark attacks.

The peaceful seaside town of Merit is about to host a sailing competition. There’s a lot of opportunity for profit, and the acting mayor has decreed that nothing must go wrong. Unfortunately, there’s something in the water.

A rookie cop gets partnered with an alcoholic veteran; a marine biologist makes the find of his career; an acting Mayor ignores the truth. And beneath the waves, something hunts. Something vast and merciless and hungry.

Thresher is a shark attack book, in the vein of Steve Alten’s Meg, and Peter Benchley’s Jaws (although Jaws isn’t really the same kind of book as all of its descendants). There’s a specific formula for these things, but it’s actually quite easy to get that formula wrong – to misunderstand why shark books are entertaining, the ideas they engage with, and the promises made to the reader. Michael Cole understand the formula – he understands what such stories need to do and how.

Thresher gets points for originality in its monster choice. The thresher shark uses a whip-like tail to stun its prey, and does not, in reality, attack humans. This one – grown to immense proportions – absolutely does attack humans, and the author’s focus on the tail helps make this book stand out from the legions of undifferentiated fictional Great Whites and Megalodons. I didn’t know thresher sharks existed before, and they are quite exciting.

I did struggle in places with the prose style. It’s overly descriptive and concrete, stating and clarifying information that should be implicit. Often, the subtext is already there, and then you get an explanation of it anyway, which clunks. Thresher needs the level of detail dialing back a bit, so that it relies more on subtlety.

The plot is a little too extensive. A few fewer twists and turns would have made for a tighter novel. There’s also the issue that, as you add complexity to what is – at its heart – a simple narrative, cracks start to appear. People act in unreasonable ways in order to add obstacles – the acting Mayor, for example, wields far greater power than she should be able to, just to throw up roadblocks in the way of the resolution.

This is a formulaic monster book. If you’re looking for shocking twists, this is not the place to find them. However, other than stylistic issues, I do recommend it – it does the formula well, and it has moments of greater originality than expected.

Buy it here.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.

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