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El­iz­a­beth Lowry PENGUIN, $33 Ship’s doc­tor Hi­ram Carver is naive and in­ex­pe­ri­enced when he takes his first post aboard the USS Or­bis in 1833. The pres­ence of Wil­liam Bor­den — a hero who saved his pre­vi­ous cap­tain and ship­mates af­ter a mutiny — calms Carver’s nerves and he de­vel­ops some­thing of an ob­ses­sion. So Carver is shocked when Bor­den loses his mind af­ter a fel­low sailor is flogged for in­sub­or­di­na­tion. Some years later, Carver is start­ing work in a Bos­ton asy­lum prac­tis­ing the then fledg­ling pro­fes­sion of psy­chi­a­try. The sub­ject of his old ob­ses­sion is de­liv­ered to the asy­lum by his des­per­ate fi­ancee, as Bor­den had failed to re­cover his senses af­ter his break­down on the Or­bis and it is hoped Dr Carver might be able to cure him. Trips to freez­ing Nan­tucket, the echo­ing halls of the fore­bod­ing asy­lum and de­scrip­tions of ship life are enough to make Dark Wa­ter’s pon­der­ous early sec­tion for­giv­able. A hard edit could have im­proved this novel, but its con­clu­sion packs a solid punch. CLAIRE SUTHERLAND VERDICT: Gothic

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