Ten years ago, I stumbled on the literary suspense novel The Hunt Club. The author, Bret Lott, is perhaps best know for his novel Jewel, an Oprah’s Book Club selection. At this point, however, I hadn’t read any of Lott’s works yet, but that strange internal divining rod I have that has led me well in my reading life thus far started vibrating over this one. The setting certainly sparked my interest too; coastal Carolina was already on my radar and would soon enough become a place I knew and loved. And indeed, I went home and read well into the night, unable to stop until there were no more pages to turn.
Dead Low Tide is the sequel to The Hunt Club, set 12 years after the events of the first novel. The narrator and protagonist, Huger Dillard, is now 27. Through a series of events that started with the first novel, Huger, his mother and his uncle have stumbled into a great deal of money, allowing them to leave North Charleston and move to the exclusive Landgrave Hall Golf and Country Club, a small neighborhood of blue bloods located off of Goose Creek, a half mile from the Naval Weapons Station and the United States Naval Consolidated Brig, reportedly where terrorists are kept. While riding through the creek on their jon boat late one night, Huger and his uncle, a blind retired police officer, discover a body, which sets off a series of events that dredge up history long buried for some and a classic power struggle where the “good guy” is difficult to identify.
Lott writes often of the salt marsh, how the light casts over itself over the Spartina and the cordgrass and the feel of the pluff mud so widespread across the salt marshes. Living on a salt marsh now myself, his portrayal rings true, the different areas he describes along the marsh and throughout the Lowcountry vivid in my mind from years of living and traveling through these parts. Lott describes, for instance, the home where Huger and his family live:
Our place had no backyard, so when you stepped off the deck onto the dock you were already in the marsh, sawgrass and salt-marsh hay on either side. When it was quiet you could hear the tick and dribble of the tide crawling in or out, filling in or emptying out the billion tiny crab holes in the pluff mud all around. The sun lay straight out in front of me a couple fists above the tree line over at the point on the creek, the tide already back on its way in for the second time since this morning, and as I walked out toward Unc, I could see the cordgrass on the edges of the creek already swallowed up in water. The world just kept moving on.
The plot moves quickly, despite its intricacies, and kept me intrigued for the duration. I was indeed sorry to finish and sorry to leave the characters, despite the fact that I don’t read widely in this genre. Note: As fair warning, there is some violence and language in the novel, if that’s not your cup of tea.
As I write this, I have two of Lott’s other novels, Ancient Highway and A Song I Knew by Heart, sitting on my nightstand. I suspect it might just end up being a Bret Lott summer.