Much has changed in the intervening 12-plus years between the publication of THE HUNT CLUB by Bret Lott and its nominal sequel, DEAD LOW TIDE. The 15-year-old Huger (pronounced “YOU-gee”) Dillard of THE HUNT CLUB is now a somewhat passive and aimless 27, proof that 30 is apparently the new 20.
"Lott’s style is not what one might expect in a thriller, particularly with the set of expectations that designation carries these days. Yet the unexpected certainly takes place, especially in the final third of the book."
The reason for that aimlessness is two-fold. The first is that Huger, his biological father Unc, and his mother have come into a fortune. This is the result of a shrewd real estate transaction that Unc engineered at the right time and place --- just before the bubble burst --- so that they now reside in Landgrave Hall, a gated community in Charleston, South Carolina, which is the home to many of the rich and powerful landed gentry to whom Huger and Unc used to hire themselves out as hunting guides. The other reason for Huger’s passiveness is the loss of Tabitha, the love of his life, whose ambition has taken her to advanced studies in California.
The more things change, though, the more they stay the same. And so it is that DEAD LOW TIDE commences with the discovery by Unc and Huger of the mutilated body of a young woman on an evening that was supposed to be nothing more or less than a clandestine outing for a bit of midnight (and illegal) golf on the Landgrave Hall course. This attracts the attention of the nearby military base, and, with one thing leading to another, an important and hidden part of the past comes calling in the person of Commander Prendergast, a naval officer with ties to the community, specifically to Unc and Huger’s mother. And when another body is found several miles away that is seemingly unconnected to the one discovered by Unc and Huger, it sets a series of events in motion, the machinations of which are not revealed until the book’s conclusion.
Lott’s narrative style --- the story is told in Huger’s voice, in the past tense --- is deceptively slow and unhurried, though at times poetic. The reader knows that all of this is going somewhere (if nothing else, who is responsible for those bodies?), but it seems unlikely that it will get there, particularly when Huger, after discovering the body with Unc, takes a very long walk home, which is actually a vehicle to bring readers of THE HUNT CLUB up to speed. It is during an unlikely weekly poker game that things come to a head for Unc and Huger, setting some unexpected wheels in motion in which betrayals and past sins are revealed, past wrongs are put paid, and a measure of justice is obtained that will resonate far beyond the streets of the well-to-do subdivision nestled in Charleston’s most historic neighborhood.
It is not necessary to have read THE HUNT CLUB to appreciate the events in DEAD LOW TIDE. Lott’s style is not what one might expect in a thriller, particularly with the set of expectations that designation carries these days. Yet the unexpected certainly takes place, especially in the final third of the book. Hopefully fans will not have to wait another decade for a third installment in this memorable canon.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 29, 2012