At the beach, twelve-year-olds Mike and Joe play, unaware of the malevolent forces at work around them.
Another inspired effort from Fracassi, who proves adept at crafting an ever-growing sense of dread. Consider this early line:
The sun hovered carelessly in its early morning position, waiting with eternal patience for the Earth to continue its steady rotation, a slow-spinning blue ball in a forever dark sky watched by a gaseous, uncaring god a hundred million miles away.
The boys play near a small cove that fills and empties with water according to the tide. Fracassi drops another ominous detail here:
Both boys came out in suits but forgot towels, an absent slip of the mind Mike would greatly regret in the hours to come.
They decide to play cops and robbers. They’ll take turns, with Joe being the cop first. Mike hides in the nearby trees, but gets spooked by an unseen presence. Again, I love the details Fracassi drops to build atmosphere:
Mike rushed out from the line of firs and into the open ground between the cove and the ocean, the rifle left on the ground by the tree where he’d dropped it, forgotten; a spider crawled over its barrel, thinking it a potential home for her eggs.
After catching Mike, Joe, whose father is an actual police officer, uses a pair of real handcuffs to chain Mike to a post at the bottom of the cove. Joe promises to return in five minutes, but does not. Time passes and in comes the tide.
Thus we have a taunt ticking-clock thriller, boosted by relatable characterization and some unexpected plot twists. Fracassi writes convincing kids, with Mike’s harrowing plight the novella’s strong point. I also loved the ending, which I read as nihilistic.
My lone complaint lies in the story’s length. While I appreciated Fracassi’s discipline not to stretch it to a novel, it still felt drawn out. That I could stop mid-story proves the lone blemish on what’s otherwise a riveting page-turner.
- 01 May, 202250%
- 07 May, 2022Finished