Author: Duncan Ralston
Release date: May 30, 2016 (Rereleased in 2019)
It’s always surreal when you dive (ha!) into a book and realize the number of unexpected similarities there are between the fiction you’re reading the your real life. Such was the case with ‘Salvage.’ ‘Salvage’ by Duncan Ralston is his debut release, and has gone through a few different tweaks (the cover shown here is the updated version by the talented and fantastic Francois Vaillancourt) but the story has remained the same.
Peace Falls was flooded three decades ago, the remains of the small town now hidden in the depths of Chapel Lake, named after the church that still stands in the murk three dozen or so feet below the surface.
I grew up in a very small town – Burton, BC. Population… maybe 100? 150? In the 1960’s, the Keenleyside Dam was constructed. Due this construction the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes, which had been two separate, smaller lakes, became one long 230 km lake. Because of this, the original town site of Burton was flooded and residents moved a few km’s to create a new town site. My grandma and grandpa were one of the very first houses moved and relocated.
Reading this book was a unique way to get me to go look back at the historical non-fiction book about where I grew up and while doing that, I stumbled upon a photo that was tucked into my grandpa’s copy that I now have. It was a photo of my grandma standing on a sidewalk. My grandma was diagnosed with MS before I was even born, and I have a single memory of her walking. It was incredibly emotional to find this and I most likely wouldn’t have came across it for some time, if not for reading this book.
What I liked: ‘Salvage’ follows Owen Saddler, a forty year old man, who finds out his globetrotting sister, Lori, has passed away. When he finds out she’s drowned in Chapel Lake while diving, something feels offs, which facilitates his return to Peace Falls. Determined to get to the bottom of strange memories and odd occurrences, he rents a house on the lakes edge.
From here, Ralston gives us a really well done supernatural-mystery novel that slowly unraveled its various layers. We get a number of old acquaintances who pop up and appear to both give Owen useful information, while also steering him away from the truth and seeing the memories stir and reconnect with Owen and his past were great and added some well placed and well utilized emotional depth.
Throughout this book, Ralston continued to give us little crumbs that led towards the ultimate finale/ending, but I must say, even with what he gave us and led us along, I didn’t see things playing out how they did. The ending and the epilogue worked really well together and the ‘loose ends’ the Ralston tidied up were great.
What I didn’t like: Minor things over all, but the one bit I wasn’t a huge fan of was near-ish the ending, Owen calls his mom to fill her in and share some news about what’s been happening. His mom has been previously closed off about discussing the past and Peace Falls, but in this conversation she completely opened up and spilled her guts. I found it a bit odd that it would just happen and wished that it was teased out a bit more over maybe a few phone calls.
Why you should buy this: It’s hard to imagine this was Ralston’s first novel as it’s really well done and the thoroughness of creating the setting and back story was top notch. Having read mainly his newer work (Ghostland, Afterlife, The Midwives) you can see how the base of those novels was formed here and he’s improved time and time again.
I’m also thankful for reading this and having such a great connection with my past and what the book featured here. That really highlighted or elevated some places, which I hadn’t expected.
If you’re looking for a really great, mystery-thriller-supernatural read that features some fantastic, pulse-pounding moments and creepy parts, look no further. This was a fun time and I’m excited to check out more of his back catalog.