Do a quick search on any of the book reading community websites and you're going to find a large number of novels called "Dead in The Water", adding to the feeling that there's something nicely tongue in cheek about the title of Tania Chandler's second novel also being the title of a crime novel within the story. That sort of echo is loosely reflected in elements of the internal novel and the troubled life of central character Brigitte and her husband in the ... main novel for want of a better description.
Brigitte and her policeman husband Aidan were introduced to readers in Chandler's debut novel PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE. If you'd offered odds on them being part of an ongoing series it's doubtful you'd have gotten many takers, and yet, here they are, working incredibly well in this second outing.
With multi-layered connections between Brigitte and the author of the internal novel, the slight echoes of storylines between the internal and main novels are also reflected when the body of a well known celebrity chef is found. Brigitte is peripherally involved as part of the day job, eventually more closely intertwined as she appears to be in danger as well. Meanwhile Aidan is off being paranoid and erratic about a whole lot of things, meaning that DEAD IN THE WATER is part character study, part exploration of the pressures of marrying a cop and part thriller. There are obvious lines to be drawn here about PTSD into the bargain - with both partners not having really dealt with events from the earlier book.
With the careful use of flashback and memory recall, Chandler has written a second novel that could be read without the benefit of the first in the series. Both books are, however, essentially studies of past trauma, and the effect that has on characters present and future behaviour. Because of that, reading them both would considerably enhance the reader's sense of connection, and frustration with both partners in this complicated and complex personal web.
Whilst you'd definitely call these character study novels, that's not to imply that plot, or even sense of place take a secondary seat. The use of the internal novel is an interesting device, cleverly employed, avoiding pitfalls and potential clichés. Using the setting of a sheltered little island community, disconnected from the mainland, isolated and vaguely disconcerting works without screaming closed room at you. Even when approaching them as character studies, these are not always likeable people. They fail, recover, act bravely and idiotically, they frustrate and annoy. They are also unexpectedly sympathetic and always extremely real.
All in all DEAD IN THE WATER is an interesting second novel, and anyone taking bets on a third featuring these characters would probably shorten the odds at a rapid rate of knots after reading it.