Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne

A creepy, isolated old house. An eerily still lake. An abandoned row boat. A hand-drawn map. For some, this seems like the setting of one creepy horror movie. But Hannah sees this destination as the perfect place for a final romantic weekend before her boyfriend, Colin, goes off to college.

Unfortunately when they arrive, not everything is as picture-perfect as Hannah hoped. The house is a little too creaky. The town is a little too secluded, and cabin-fever is beginning to take its toll on Colin. Suddenly, Hannah’s perfect getaway has turned into a nightmare that she might not be able to escape.

Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne is a book that I desperately wanted to like. But the novel lacks an in-depth analysis of the characters, both physically and emotionally. For example, the only identifying physical characteristic provided for Hannah is that her hair, of an unknown color, has bangs.  Although I appreciate this lack of detail as an artistic choice, it is an approach that keeps the reader at arm’s length from the characters and their situation. It’s as though the author forgot or didn’t care enough to give her characters faces. And although Emily Carlson Berne provides us with a glimpse of the characters’ home lives and inner turmoil, these details are often presented and then left unexplained. I wanted the author to fill out Hannah and Colin’s inner lives.

But what Still Waters lacks in description, it makes up for in dialogue. Almost every conversation in the book takes place between Hannah and Colin. Their exchanges are the high point of the story, because they offer a brief glimpse into the true characters of Hannah and Colin. The dialogue goes a long way in breathing life into otherwise thinly drawn characters.

The tone used in Still Waters sent shivers up my spine. This story highlights our most basic fears: it makes you think twice about the noises in the dark, jump at the rumble of thunder, and keep the nightlight on high. Although reading Still Waters isn’t sheer terror, the subtle imagery and tone used in the narration still works a chill into your bones. Still Waters is a whispered reminder that not everything is what it seems.


Victoria Testa lives in New York City but is a beach bum at heart. When not writing or reading, she can be found surfing, swimming, and singing!

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