Former professional snowboarder Allie Reynolds wrote what she knew in her debut thriller Shiver. That book centred around the reunion of a group of old friends at an isolated ski resort when things start to go wrong. The world of professional snowboarding and the competitive nature of the characters comes very much into play in the plot. In her follow up thriller The Bay, Reynolds focusses on another cohort of thrill seekers – surfers. And again, she puts a group of people in a remote, digitally disconnected environment before starting to ramp up the pressure.
Kenna has flown to Sydney from London to stop her oldest friend Mikki from getting married. Although she does not know much about Mikki’s fiancé Jack, Kenna is sure that Mikki is making a mistake. Kenna is almost immediately spirited off by the pair to their secret camping and surfing location, a place four hours drive north of Sydney called Sorrow Bay. A couple of encounters both before and on the trip make Kenna even more wary of Jack and that is before she meets the rest of the Tribe (as they call themselves) – Clement, Sky, Ryan and Vincent – who have secreted themselves at Sorrow Bay. The six members of the Tribe are led by Sky, who exhibits the classic attributes of a cult leader – she encourages them to break down sexual and personal bonds, she leads dangerous games and she forces them to face their fears and push personal boundaries both in and out of the surf.
Most of the story is told from Kenna’s point of view with some very brief interludes from other characters and the occasional italicised point of view chapter from the unnamed killer. Because readers know from the cold open that there is a killer in the group, a fact that Kenna begins to suspect very early on. From there it is a matter of Kenna trying to work out what exactly is going on and how it links to reports of missing backpackers, break the group up as a way of extracting Mikki, all while facing down the demons of her own past. And she does this while being drawn into the cult and finding herself attracted not only to Jack but also to Clemente.
While the set up for The Bay is all a little contrived it is also a fun, pacey thriller with plenty of tension and some great late narrative twists. While there is only one stone cold killer in the group, none of the characters cover themselves in glory, all have something to hide and the readers suspicions will jump around as often as Kenna’s. Much like the snowboarders in Shiver, Reynolds is able to capture the characters’ obsession with surfing – not only its dangers but also the joy that the group, and Kenna in particular, take from the sport. The Bay only really suffers in comparison to Shiver in that the set up feels a little similar. But it is different enough to be able to put those comparisons aside and with The Bay Reynolds has shown again that she can deliver a character-driven, twisty thriller so it will be interesting to see what she does next.