Something in the Water

Something in the Water

by Catherine Steadman

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut—for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

“A psychological thriller that captivated me from page one. What unfolds makes for a wild, page-turning ride! It’s the perfect beach read!”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine book pick)


If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .
Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?
Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?
Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Praise for Something in the Water

“Superbly written, clever and gripping.”—B. A. Paris, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors 

“Deliciously dramatic.”Entertainment Weekly 

“Thrilling . . . the perfect beach read.”PopSugar

“A dark glittering gem of a thriller.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Arresting . . . deftly paced, elegantly chilly . . . [Catherine] Steadman brings . . . wit, timing and intelligence to this novel. . . . Something in the Water is a proper page-turner.”The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524797195
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 471
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Catherine Steadman is an actress and writer based in North London, UK. She has appeared in leading roles on British television as well as on stage in the West End. In 2016 she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Oppenheimer. She is best known in the United States for her role as Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey. She grew up in the New Forest, UK, and lives with a small dog and an average-sized man. Something in the Water is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt


Saturday, October 1

The Grave

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave? Wonder no longer. It takes an age. However long you think it takes, double that.

I’m sure you’ve seen it in movies: the hero, gun to his head perhaps, as he sweats and grunts his way deeper and deeper into the earth until he’s standing six feet down in his own grave. Or the two hapless crooks who argue and quip in the hilarious madcap chaos as they shovel frantically, dirt flying skyward with cartoonish ease.

It’s not like that. It’s hard. Nothing about it is easy. The ground is solid and heavy and slow. It’s so fucking hard.

And it’s boring. And long. And it has to be done.

The stress, the adrenaline, the desperate animal need to do it, sustains you for about twenty minutes. Then you crash.

Your muscles yawn against the bones in your arms and legs. Skin to bone, bone to skin. Your heart aches from the aftermath of the adrenal shock, your blood sugar drops, you hit the wall. A full-­body hit. But you know, you know with crystal clarity, that high or low, exhausted or not, that hole’s getting dug.

Then you kick into another gear. It’s that halfway point in a marathon when the novelty has worn off and you’ve just got to finish the joyless bloody thing. You’ve invested; you’re all in. You’ve told all your friends you’d do it, you made them pledge donations to some charity or other, one you have only a vague passing connection to. They guiltily promised more money than they really wanted to give, feeling obligated because of some bike ride or other they might have done at university, the details of which they bore you with every time they get drunk. I’m still talking about the marathon, stick with me. And then you went out every evening, on your own, shins throbbing, headphones in, building up miles, for this. So that you can fight yourself, fight with your body, right there, in that moment, in that stark moment, and see who wins. And no one but you is watching. And no one but you really cares. It’s just you and yourself trying to survive. That is what digging a grave feels like, like the music has stopped but you can’t stop dancing. Because if you stop dancing, you die.

So you keep digging. You do it, because the alternative is far worse than digging a never-­ending fucking hole in the hard compacted soil with a shovel you found in some old man’s shed.

As you dig you see colors drift across your eyes: phosphenes caused by metabolic stimulation of neurons in the visual cortex due to low oxygenation and low glucose. Your ears roar with blood: low blood pressure caused by dehydration and overexertion. But your thoughts? Your thoughts skim across the still pool of your consciousness, only occasionally glancing the surface. Gone before you can grasp them. Your mind is completely blank. The central nervous system treats this overexertion as a fight-­or-­flight situation; exercise-­induced neurogenesis, along with that ever-­popular sports mag favorite, “exercise-­induced endorphin release,” acts to both inhibit your brain and protect it from the sustained pain and stress of what you are doing.

Exhaustion is a fantastic emotional leveler. Running or digging.

Around the forty-­five-­minute mark I decide six feet is an unrealistic depth for this grave. I will not manage to dig down to six feet. I’m five foot six. How would I even climb out? I would literally have dug myself into a hole.

According to a 2014 YouGov survey, five foot six is the ideal height for a British woman. Apparently that is the height that the average British man would prefer his partner to be. So, lucky me. Lucky Mark. God, I wish Mark were here.

So if I’m not digging six feet under, how far under? How deep is deep enough?

Bodies tend to get found because of poor burial. I don’t want that to happen. I really don’t. That would definitely not be the outcome I’m after. And a poor burial, like a poor anything else really, comes down to three things:

1. Lack of time

2. Lack of initiative

3. Lack of care

In terms of time: I have three to six hours to do this. Three hours is my conservative estimate. Six hours is the daylight I have left. I have time.

I believe I have initiative; two brains are better than one. I hope. I just need to work through this step by step.

And number three: care? God, do I care. I care. More than I have ever cared in my entire life.


Three feet is the minimum depth recommended by the ICCM (Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management). I know this because I Googled it. I Googled it before I started digging. See, initiative. Care. I squatted down next to the body, wet leaves and mud malty underfoot, and I Googled how to bury a body. I Googled this on the body’s burner phone. If they do find the body . . . they won’t find the body . . . and manage to retrieve the data . . . they won’t retrieve the data . . . then this search history is going to make fantastic reading.

Two full hours in, I stop digging. The hole is just over three feet deep. I don’t have a tape measure, but I remember that three feet is around crotch height. The height of the highest jump I managed on the horse-­riding vacation I took before I left for university twelve years ago. An eighteenth-­birthday present. Weird what sticks in the memory, isn’t it? But here I am, waist-­deep in a grave, remembering a gymkhana. I got second prize, by the way. I was very happy with it.

Anyway, I’ve dug approximately three feet deep, two feet wide, six feet long. Yes, that took two hours.

To reiterate: digging a grave is very hard.

Just to put this into perspective for you, this hole, my two-­hour hole, is: 3 ft x 2 ft x 6 ft, which is 36 cubic feet of soil, which is 1 cubic meter of soil, which is 1.5 tons of soil. And that—­that—­is the weight of a hatchback car or a fully grown beluga whale or the average hippopotamus. I have moved the equivalent of that up and slightly to the left of where it was before. And this grave is only three feet deep.

I look across the mud at the mound and slowly hoist myself out, forearms trembling under my own weight. The body lies across from me under a torn tarpaulin, its brilliant cobalt a slash of color against the brown forest floor. I’d found it abandoned, hanging like a veil from a branch, back toward the layby, in quiet communion with an abandoned fridge. The fridge’s small freezer-­box door creaking calmly in the breeze. Dumped.

There’s something so sad about abandoned objects, isn’t there? Desolate. But kind of beautiful. I suppose, in a sense, I’ve come to abandon a body.

The fridge has been here a while—­I know this because I saw it from the car window as we drove past here three months ago, and nobody has come for it yet. We were on our way back to London from Norfolk, Mark and I, after celebrating our anniversary, and here the fridge still is months later. Odd to think so much has happened—­to me, to us—­in that time, but nothing has changed here. As if this spot were adrift from time, a holding area. It has that feel. Perhaps no one has been here since the fridge owner was here, and God knows how long ago that might have been. The fridge looks distinctly seventies—­you know, in that bricky way. Bricky, Kubricky. A monolith in a damp English wood. Obsolete. Three months it’s been here at least and no collection, no men from the dump. No one comes here, that’s clear. Except us. No council workers, no disgruntled locals to write letters to the council, no early morning dog walkers to stumble across my quarry. This was the safest place I could think of. So here we are. It will take a while for it all to settle, the soil. But I think the fridge and I have enough time.

I look it over, the crumpled-­tarp mound. Underneath lie flesh, skin, bone, teeth. Three and a half hours dead.

I wonder if he’s still warm. My husband. Warm to the touch. I Google it. Either way, I don’t want the shock.


Okay, the arms and legs should be cold to the touch but the main body will still be warm. Okay then.

I take a long, full exhalation.

Okay, here we go. . . .

I stop. Wait.

I don’t know why, but I clear his burner phone’s search history. It’s pointless, I know; the phone’s untraceable and after a couple of hours in the damp October ground it won’t work anyway. But then, maybe it will. I place the burner back in his coat pocket and slip his personal iPhone out of his chest pocket. It’s on airplane mode.

I look through the photo library. Us. Tears well and then streak in two hot dribbles down my face.

I fully remove the tarp, exposing everything it conceals. I wipe the phone for prints, return it to its warm chest pocket, and brace my knees to drag.

I’m not a bad person. Or maybe I am. Maybe you should decide?

But I should definitely explain. And to explain I need to go back. Back to that anniversary morning, three months ago.

Reading Group Guide

1. The novel begins with the striking scene of Erin digging a grave, then flashes back in time to describe the events leading up to it. Is this an effective way to enter the story? Did the opening pages hook you? Why or why not?

2. Erin’s career as a documentary filmmaker puts her in touch with incarcerated people she may never have met otherwise, and her relationship with Eddie is especially complex. She never tells Mark about him and is drawn to him during her interviews. She befriends a known criminal. Why does Erin become so closely involved with him? How genuine are her connections with her other documentary subjects, and how do those relationships affect the events in the novel?

3. Throughout the novel, Erin makes questionable decisions in order to secure what she thinks is the best future for her and Mark. Did you sympathize with her or criticize her actions? Does she ever become suspicious or untrustworthy as a narrator?

4. Catherine Steadman is a professional actress and wrote parts of Something in the Water whilst on set. Can you identify ways in which her writing process may have influenced the tone and/or structure of the novel? What struck you about her writing style?

5. After their discovery on the scuba dive, how does Erin and Mark’s relationship change? Despite the secrets they’re hiding from each other, they do not struggle intimately. Do they truly love each other?

6. Money is a motivating factor in Erin and Mark’s decisions, and the idea of the fiscal divide between the extremely wealthy and the middle classes percolates through the novel. Are the characters in the novel motivated by greed? Or survival? Do financial issues have the power to tear people apart?

7. Erin references her family only briefly, focusing most of the narrative on Mark and her documentary subjects. Why do you think her family gets so little page time? Eddie’s daughter, Charlotte McInroy, tells Erin that she disconnected from her family and created a life “from scratch.” Do these two women have similar stories? Does Erin make a life “from scratch”?

8. Erin is often very empathetic, and she doesn’t blame Mark for the consequences of their actions until she has no other choice. Does this reflect a broader tendency for partners to excuse their spouses’ behaviors or put them on a pedestal? Is that reaction even more common among women than men?

9. Erin learns a striking piece of news in the closing pages of the book. Will this affect her character for the better—or for the worse? Do you think Erin is capable of committing a crime herself in the future?

10. The novel ends with Erin thinking, “You can’t save everyone. Sometimes you just have to save yourself.” What sacrifices does Erin have to make to save herself? Does she leave anyone behind? Would you have made the same choices?

Customer Reviews

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Something in the Water: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would have given this 5 stars but I could skip a lot of it. It was a page turner and I really liked it, I would recommend but say you can skip a lot of it that didn’t need to be part of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely keeps you on your toes! I just couldn’t stop reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book very much. The characters were well developed however I was hoping for more in the ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hooked from page one but was disappointed at the end. What favor did Eddie need? Did these favors continue ? Did Erin stay in a life of crime? More closure is needed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a book club read I finished this tall tale; otherwise I would have abandoned Mark and Erin shortly after the honeymoon. It was entertaining though; as one bad decision leads to the next and the only certain outcome should be Erin’s death. Maybe the author will follow up with Erin working as Eddie’s hit woman in the next installment of this highly unlikely story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Early on I expected how it would end. The main character was annoying and I found myself not caring for her. There were also a lot of unanswered questions. Things that seemed to be really important were quickly dropped or never explained.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I had a better understanding why Mark did his 180 degree but I enjoyed the book very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Captivating and a page turner.....I read it in one night , binging on the words as though I were enjoying a feast ! Hoping for another show of brilliance from this author.....soon . BRAVO !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The end felt like the author ran out of time and rushed it. Overall it was a good book but disappointed with the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding! Once you start reading the events just keep pulling you deeper and deeper. Couldn’t put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started terribly slow with too much detail, great in the middle, ended leaving too many questions!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I saw the ending coming, it was still a good read. Nice job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! A definite page turner! You think you know what's coming, but you have no ides!
LisaB95 More than 1 year ago
I REALLY wanted to love this book from the moment I read the discription. And it did start off with a bang. Erin and Mark are just getting married and have been together a while, doing lots of things as a happy couple. They go to Bora Bora on their honeymoon. Erin is telling the story. It starts off with her digging a grave, telling how she wonders how deep it needs to be. She’s burying her husband. Next we are taken back to where it all began, before the wedding. This is great, I’m thinking. But it got so weighed down with her droning on and on. I found myself skipping through parts of it around 30% of the book. I think it was mainly because I wasn’t crazy about the characters. Erin was so annoying. Mark was ok but not as developed as I would’ve liked. That being said, if you have the patience to wade through all the details, the ending will knock your socks off. The beginning and ending are wonderful. So intense. It makes you wonder just how well you really know someone.
tarync 4 days ago
I was really engaged in this book for the first 1/2 , fast moving and good flow then the authors inexperience let me down - she tried to wrap everything up so neatly and lost it . Still a decent beach read .
Karen Grant 7 days ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. What a cliff-hanger.
Renwarsreads 7 days ago
I thought this book was really well thought out, I did find it hard to connect with any other characters. Erin was a little too much. She just kept doing things spontaneously, without really thinking them through or discussing them with Mark, her husband. It began with a bang, it had a bit of a lull and then things really picked up after they returned from their honeymoon. I liked this book and am looking forward to reading Catherine Steadman's next book.
Marybeth Shinn 17 days ago
Not worth reading
Dee14 29 days ago
A page turner, read it in 2 days. good for book club
MamaHendo 11 months ago
Someone is dead. Someone is digging a grave. In order to find out what led to this, you are transported back a few months to a time when Erin & Mark are about to walk down the aisle. Erin, a documentary filmmaker is hard at work on her first solo film and Mark, a hot-shot investment banker with big ambitions jet off on their honeymoon to Bora Bora. The newlyweds, having cut their trip short due to Mark recently losing his job, plan on enjoying the sun and each other for two full weeks. After spending the day scuba diving the couple come across an unusual scene in the middle of the ocean. Papers. Pieces of paper are scattered everywhere. Stopping the boat to get a better look the two discover something in the water that will change their lives forever. This debut novel by Catherine Steadman (yay Downton Abbey!) was filled with page-turning suspense and has the reader contemplating what would you do in Erin & Mark's shoes. The opening chapter has you hooked right from the start. My only issue was that the book ended so abruptly leaving too many unanswered questions. I really hope that Steadman is planning to revisit Erin's story and give us a sequel. I need to know more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was hard to get into for about the 1st 3-4 chapters, but quickly picked up speed. Then it was impossible to put down. A real nail biter! Teresa
alexcan3 More than 1 year ago
I think I am between 2.5 and 3 stars. The first chapter is great; it hooked me. It is the best chapter, so much of the book thereafter is a disappointment. Without giving away the plot, I was not surprised by Mark's role. There was no twist or surprise at the end, for me. There were many unanswered questions, overall, at the end though. Left me unsatisfied.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh my!! I have never read any of her books,but this one is spectacular!! Really enjoyed it!! SG
gmcootie More than 1 year ago
Although the suspense builds and builds in Something in the Water until you almost can’t stand it, the pace is almost painfully slow and deliberate. Author Catherine Steadman makes you experience every single excruciating moment, every what if. Of course I already knew the terrible thing that happened. It was right there in the first chapter. Or do I really know? Is there more, or something unimaginably worse? I had a sense of dread from the very beginning, like a dark cloud over the story that just kept getting bigger and bigger until it enveloped everything. I did not like Erin. Chapter after chapter I wanted to yell at her: What is wrong with you? Are you so greedy? So stupid? So selfish? So cold? She is arrogant, careless, reckless, deceitful, self-serving. She says she is afraid but she is very proud of how clever she thinks she is. Although Mark has several temper tantrums as he starts to worry about money, he initially seems to be the more cautious and thoughtful of the two. But I didn’t really like him (or most of the other characters) either. Erin asks herself at one point if she is bad person. This book is full of bad people. You never know who has an ulterior motive or is out to cause harm. The honeymoon turns into a nightmare, and it’s worse when they return home and try to deal with what they have done. But I wondered what kind of relationship they had in the first place, such strain, so many secrets. What’s with him having hiding places and her knowing all of them? I couldn’t really decide if I liked this book or not. There were a lot of twists and turns and surprises but at least part of the ending was already known. The deliberate pace and attention to detail that worked well in building suspense also made many chapters plain boring, too full of information that added nothing to the plot. I couldn’t put the book down, but I think that was due more to that overall sense of dread and anxiety and just having to know exactly how the author would wrap things up. However, the ending and afterward were disappointing. They felt rushed and left us with a platitude. Thanks to LibraryThing for provide a copy of Something in the Water for me to read and review. This review is entirely my opinion.
JamieS More than 1 year ago
This is a thriller about a couple who find themselves in financial distress weeks before their wedding and the decisions they make afterwards will have life-changing consequences. The book opens with a scene where one of the characters is digging a grave to bury a body! What, aren't you on your honeymoon? All throughout make you stop and wonder...what would I do. A good pool read or beach read! Thank you Netgalley for the ARC for my honest review.