Maybe we’re all keeping more secrets than we would care to admit. It’s only when we’re stuck in close proximity with one another that you can truly see one’s true colours shining through, and in this case they’re emerald green.
Rachel Rhys’ A Dangerous Crossing begins with Lilly, an English rose of the 1930’s who’s boarding the Orontes to begin her lengthy journey to Australian shores. As Lilly makes acquaintances throughout the journey, she doesn’t think to question any of her ‘friends’, but should she? Is the brash and narrow-minded George Price who he says he is? What are the exuberant and over the top Eliza and Max Campbell running away from? And why can’t she quite figure out the fun and easy-going duo; Edward and Helena, who she spends so much time with? Lilly’s suspicions about her fellow passengers continue to grow as she pieces together more and more of their hidden ghastly previous lives.
The author, Rachel Rhys, has written many successful psychological suspense novels prior to this one and is rather mysterious herself as this is her first novel under this name. The novel was actually based off a 1930’s ocean voyage with critics likening the novel to that of an Agatha Christie. I was rather excited to sink my teeth, and eyes, into this novel and soak up all the murder and mystery my soul could stand.
I’ll be honest; when I first started reading I was a little worried. There were all the cautionary signs of a potentially boring book; the painfully precise description of each character’s clothing, the classically demure English female character that’s always too caught up in other people’s perception of her to actually say something brash or honest and it felt like for the first third of the book nothing much really happened. Although once I got further into the novel I realised what Rhys was doing. She was setting up the characters so that you felt as though you knew them, you trusted them, you became accustomed to their daily routines, their neat little personalities that fit into boxes and then she yanks it all out from under you right at the end.
Something I found frustrating about this novel was the passivity of the protagonist, Lilly. There were so many points in the novel where Lilly thinks something but doesn’t say it for fear of being overly bold or rude, I so desperately wanted Lilly to ask those questions. There are only so many times you can say “and Lilly thought” before it starts to become repetitive and frustrating, especially when, at times, Lilly was not a very consistent character. One day Lilly would ignore a fellow passenger’s advice and the next she can’t even ask a friend a nosy question.
Nevertheless, I found this novel to be extremely gripping. The subtlety through the details trickled throughout like the slow drip of a tap that finally turns into a gush of water, giving you those crucial hideous pieces of information that bring the story to life – it was unlike anything I’ve read before. I think this was my favourite thing about A Dangerous Crossing, the fine detail and the slow immersion into a new and unfamiliar world.