There’s a right mix of personalities among the crew and passenger list on a cruise ship such as the Beautiful Dreamer – along with the usual “beautiful people”, boozers and habitual cruisers are two women planning a double suicide, an addicted ship’s doctor, a couple in which the wife is a player, a murderer, a cheesy cruise director, and a “mystic” whose charismatic appeal to fans seeking messages from “the other side” is the central focus.
What could go wrong? Nothing – for the first three days.
We follow individual characters, passenger or crew, as they move about the ship, coping with the sudden shut-down of the cruiser. No Wifi, no radio, no contact with the rest of the world. No power to the engines. No working sewerage system. No power in the kitchens for cooking or keeping food fresh.
A virus breaks out, disabling more and more as it rampages among those on board – except for the mystic – Celine del Rey – and her followers. Her personal assistant, Maddie, has her loyalty stretched as Celine affects more and more passengers. A blogger intent on exposing her as a fraud creates in Maddie questions about her loyalty to Celine.
A body is found, assumed choked to death on her own vomit. Although a crewman reviewing security footage spots the vague figure of a man leaving her cabin, he cannot convince senior crew to follow up. The cruise company has a history of unusual events, and of covering them up.
As the virus spreads, and living conditions worse, there comes the inevitable disastrous storm. The cruiser, with no power and adrift without communication is tossed in the storm, and the crew panic and abandon ship. Passengers also abandon ship, but none are ever recovered.
Why did the ship shut down? What happened to those who abandoned ship? What happened when the ship, restored to working order, nears land. What has happened in the city during what seems to be months of decay or worse?
And what happens to the few who stay on board, after the cruiser takes Celine and her followers to an island she reassures them will be a safe haven from the disaster on shore, and are finally rescued and taken off the ship?
“Transcript extracts” of interviews with these last remaining people raise more questions for the reader than provide explanations. Warning: the closing chapter is an even more unsettling closure of this supernatural thriller.
Hodder & Stoughton for Hatchette UK,
ISBN: Hardback – 978 1 444 77536 5
Paperback – 978 1 444 77536 2
EBook – 978 1 444 77540 2
NZ Release date late may 2015