Dana Marton’s third book in the Civilian Personnel Recovery Unit series, “Girl in the Water” is yet another good read by this author. It’s set in Brazil and is primarily Daniela’s story of how she was raped at age 15 and forced into prostitution, later being sold to Finch who was murdered and tortured.
A friend and Army buddy of Finch, Ian Slaney, recently arrived in Brazil in response to a mysterious call from his friend. He soon discovers Daniela living in Finch’s cottage and she relates the events that led to his death. Ian now knows Daniela is in danger from the men who killed Finch. He takes her to the U.S. where she blossoms into a beautiful, intelligent woman who still hopes to be a teacher.
For the purpose of this review, I’ll dispense with a full synopsis, as it’s readily available elsewhere and instead, concentrate on what I liked and maybe didn’t like in this romantic thriller.
Ms Marton continues to impress me with original plots and authentic characters who have real depth. Those background characterizations are pictures into the soul and psyche of her characters. Ian is a complex character study. Fiercely loyal and true to his convictions, Ian believes himself too old, too jaded and generally unworthy of intimacy with Daniela, regardless of her strong feelings for him.
In four years we see Daniela transformed from a scrawny, malnourished village child into a true beauty with an exceptionally quick mind, a thirst for knowledge and a sincere desire to help and teach others. With all her positive qualities, Daniela also has her demons but with Ian’s help, she has learned to keep them at bay.
“Girl in the Water” is full of suspense as well as some nifty action scenes. The narrative pacing never lags and my heart was pounding during the more physical passages, e.g. gunfights and hand-to-hand combat with the baddies. Also Ms Marton makes the physical environment come alive. I could almost inhale the scents and oppressive humidity of the Amazonian rainforest.
Now for the flip side. My positive feelings for Daniela are offset by impatience with Ian’s stubborn, dig-in-your heels attitude in denying his feelings for her. He was all tied up in unreasonable and undeserved guilt for the deaths of his former wife and their two infant sons. His self-imposed penance drove him almost to the bottom of the bottle.
This story has all the elements of a cracking good read. The writing, while not meant to be literary fiction, is better than average. As already mentioned, the complex plot, in-depth characterizations and physical descriptions are hallmarks of Dana Marton’s talent. She also has a deft hand in relating the romantic element. Never in your face but elegantly intimate when called for. These are characters you can believe in. Four stars.