Mercy of the Tide, The By Keith Rosson, 283 pgs.

Full disclosure: Author Keith Rosson is a contributor to Razorcake, although I’ve never met him. But over the years I’ve gotten the impression he’s a good dude. One thing I know for sure about him, though, is that he’s a talented writer. On many occasions as I read his debut novel, The Mercy of the Tide, I thought to myself, “Damn, Keith can write!”

Rosson’s debut novel deals with strange occurrences in a small, oceanside town in Oregon in 1983. Mutilated animals begin appearing, as does a human skeleton. There’s a sense of mystery throughout the book, but it’s also suspenseful and dramatic. There are issues of death, family relationships, and love woven with intricacy throughout these pages.

Each chapter exists through the eyes of one of four characters. Sam Finster is an eighteen-year-old high school senior who lives with his deaf nine-year-old sister Trina. Besides the two Finsters there are two members of law enforcement: Dave Dobbs, the town’s sheriff, and Nick Hayslip, his deputy. It’s obvious that each character is coming from the same writer, but they’re also not interchangeable. Rosson gives them unique personality traits and behaviors, making Trina, Sam, Dave, and Nick all interesting in their own right.

The world in which the story takes place is like our own history of the 1980s, but different. Ronald Reagan is president but he’s also had an assassination attempt that was unlike the one he had in our world. Additionally, tensions with the Soviet Union seem much higher. There are some elements of fantasy that come into play, which means The Mercy of the Tide is not delineated. Rosson’s talent shows in his ability to thread four main characters in such a seamless manner into a book that includes more than one genre.

One nagging complaint throughout, though, is Rosson’s ability to tell such a descriptive tale meant that he has an ability to be too verbose. It would’ve been good for him to reign in some description, especially earlier in the book. It took me a while to get engaged because of the extensive picture painted. Even so, I’m glad I stuck with it, because the final quarter of the book more than pays off.

The world of publishing is strange. It’s kind of like music in the sense of I don’t know why some albums get popular acclaim and others fall through the cracks. I’ve read books that are “successful” and they’re lost on me. Meanwhile, people like Rosson are putting out gripping, illustrative books like The Mercy of the Tide. God damn, if this isn’t made into a movie it’s a crying shame. –Kurt Morris (Meerkat Press, meerkatpress.com)