From writer, producer, and actor best known as “Murr” on the hit television shows Impractical Jokers and The Misery Index, James S. Murray, and co-writer Darren Wearmouth, comes The Stowaway, a suspenseful masterpiece that leaves a cruise ship stranded at sea with a serial killer hiding aboard.
Two years ago, Maria Fontana, the head of the Psychology Department at Columbia University, sat on a jury for one of the most depraved cases ever to pass through the hallowed halls of City Hall. Wyatt Butler, an antique watch restorer and alleged serial killer, was portrayed in the courtroom as a brutal monster. But Maria had to make the tough choice. In good conscience, she couldn’t convict him based purely on circumstantial evidence, and her deciding vote set Wyatt Butler free. The media soon outed her as the lone juror and her successful and quaint life was turned upside down. The victims of Wyatt’s ritualistic killings never forgave her either.
Now, she and her family have decided to take a vacation to get away from everything: a two-week-long transatlantic cruise. Nothing, and nobody should be able to bother her there. With her two twins and her fiancé Steve, she is set to put the past behind her as soon as the ship leaves port. But when a passenger mysteriously disappears, Maria is left to wonder if maybe this was no coincidence. When another passenger is discovered brutally murdered in a similar way to Butler’s ritualistic MO, the ship goes on lockdown.
Maria, one of only twelve people in the world with intimate knowledge of the case, faces a perilous ticking clock. Is it a copycat? Or is she trapped on board with the bloodthirsty maniac she chose to set free?
What I Loved
First off, I adored the setting. A serial killer lose on a cruise ship is a nightmare. The suspense was incredibly high throughout the novel. I couldn’t figure out how anyone on the vessel could possibly stay safe, especially if the killer had them in their sights. And in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – how in the world could they get help to stop someone that crafty, deadly, and violent?
Maria Fontana, a divorced mother of two, sat on the jury for the murder trial of Wyatt Butler, a supposed serial killer who targeted children and had some very disturbing MOs. The jury came back hung because of just one member. All the jurors were harassed by the public until Maria stood up and took the blame, making her an instant target. On sabbatical from Columbia University, Maria, her fiancé Steve and her two children took a cruise from New York to the UK to get away from all the harassment. All was good until someone started murdering children on the boat. Maria knew the serial killer was on the ship, and she must be the target.
I was constantly on high alert reading this harrowing tale and loved every second of it. The thrills are plentiful, the pace is fast, and the misdirects are very well-placed. The plot is highly focused, which ratcheted up the thrills but also meant I can’t say too much without tiptoeing into the realm of spoilers.
What I Wish
I wish the other characters, especially Maria, had been developed more. That would have added depth to this story, making it a straightforward and unequivocal five-star read. Even without it, it was a highly entertaining and jaw-dropping story, but it would have been off the charts with that amount of depth.
The characters are relatively relatable, and I sympathized. Still, the story is plot-driven, and character development was not a strong aspect. I’ve already mentioned Maria and Steve. Although Maria doesn’t narrate, it’s third-person narration. The story focuses on her and follows her most of the time.
The relatively well-developed character is the serial killer. That person is very intriguing with proclivities and reasoning that I found to be entirely original and intriguing. This brought a gamut of emotions to the story as I kept rotating between being horrified, fascinated, and just plain scared for the people on the ship.
Reminds Me Of
It reminded me of many serial killer thrillers but heightened emotions that only a closed space like a cruise ship could bring.
Abduction / Murder – graphic and involves children
To Read or Not to Read
If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller that will have you picking up your jaw off the floor, you won’t want to miss The Stowaway this fall.