Headline | 2017 (30 November) | 419p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book
Natasha Moore, only just 18 years old, has vanished without trace from HMS Defiance, the warship on which she serves. The ship was due to be in port for some time, with most of the crew enjoying the leave due to them, and so it took a while for Natasha’s absence to be noted. Naval investigator Lieutenant Danielle (Dani) Lewis is given the case. Dani is the Navy’s star investigator. The media love her and it’s not surprising considering the times that Dani puts her own life in danger to rescue the vulnerable. But it’s won Dani no favours with her bosses and, as ever, Dani must work to prove herself.
The case takes Dani deep into the ship politics of the Defiance. She is better aware than most of the nature of navy life, its maleness, the bullying, the long absences and the discomfort of the cramped living conditions and the isolation it brings. But the navy is in Dani’s blood. As she investigates Natasha’s disappearance, further clues emerge about the conspiracy that Dani unearthed during her previous case aboard the submarine Tenacity. The past daunts Dani. She must resolve it. But all the time she must keen an eye on the young woman that the navy almost forgot, Natasha Moore.
The Fear Within is the second novel in J.S. law’s series to feature naval investigator Dani Lewis. Things have moved on from Tenacity, now renamed The Dark Beneath just as Dan has now become Dani. The Fear Within is a tighter thriller, the case more complex, and Dani strides through it with the perfect mix of confidence and vulnerability. She might be far too headstrong on occasion, rushing in to situations when she should know better, but she is also so easy to like. This navy society is extremely rigid but Dani manages to cross its boundaries, bridging worlds and ranks. And in The Fear Within, Dani is at her very best. If you haven’t read The Dark Beneath yet and intend to then I certainly suggest you read that first (this second book does reveal some important details of the first).
The structure works very well, moving between Dani’s investigations onshore and aboard Defiance and the past story of Natasha during the months and weeks leading up to her disappearance. But there are more stories at play here which take Dani even deeper into her past. This movement and the layers that bring these cases together make this novel such a fascinating and absorbing novel. I enjoy the mix of new mystery combined with an older one that hangs over events like a shadow. Natasha is also a powerful presence and her story is the one that dominates.
It is, though, a disturbing novel. Navy life is shown here at its most unappealing, not least for the isolation of its young sailors, especially the female ones. I was troubled by it and found some aspects of the tale challenging to read. But I love how the author brings to his writing his experience of navy life. The prose is full of nautical terms. It feels very authentic. And the setting of the ship is fantastic. It doesn’t have the claustrophobia of the submarine Tenacity in The Dark Beneath, and most of it is set on a ship that’s docked and not at sea, but it’s nevertheless extremely atmospheric.
The Fear Within is a gripping and moody crime thriller with an unusual setting. This series certainly brings something original to the genre while also being extremely well-written. Dani is a fascinating main character. There is still so much to learn about her (and her family). I hear another book is on the way. Good news.
You can read another review on Novel Heights.
Tenacity/The Dark Beneath