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What Would You Do: Something in the Water

Brook and Sarah break down the choices the narrator makes in Catherine Steadman’s 2018 domestic thriller Something in the Water. This episode goes into detail about the plot; to avoid spoilers, read the book first.


Something in the Water (2018) Catherine Steadman

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook, and we both love mystery.
SarahHi Brook.
BrookHi Sarah, how are you doing?
SarahI’m doing really well. Are you ready to talk about another What Would You Do book?
BrookYes, let’s do it. Today we’re going to ask our signature question of the novel by Catherine Steadman, Something in the Water.
SarahOK, but before we begin, Brook, let me just give a little spoiler warning because we are going to be talking about the book in great detail. So if you haven’t read it, ah you might want to do that first and then come back and listen.
BrookThe book opens with a female narrator describing the process of digging a grave to hide a body. And by the end of the scene, she reveals that this body is her husband’s. She asks the reader to consider whether she’s a bad person once she tells the story of how the situation came to be. We learn the woman’s name is Erin Locke, and she first goes back to describe an anniversary trip that she and Mark Roberts took.
BrookNot a wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of their first date, which they’ve been celebrating for some time. Their relationship seems very romantic and very fun. A no-brainer that they’re planning to be married in two months. Mark is in the banking industry and Erin is a self-employed documentary filmmaker. Her current project involves interviewing three prisoners who are about to be released. She plans to interview them while they’re still in jail about what they want to do when they’re released, their hopes and dreams, and then follow them for a short period of time afterwards. One of these subjects is Eddie Bishop, an organized crime leader.
BrookShortly after this idyllic anniversary trip, Mark is fired from his banking job and becomes fearful and closed off from Erin. In an out-of-character move, he suggests they change their wedding he suggests they changed their expensive wedding plans and announces that he scaled back their honeymoon. They’ll still go to Bora Bora, but for only two weeks, not three. After some consideration, Erin is okay with making the changes to their wedding. It’s still a beautiful day, and then the happy newlyweds travel first class to Bora Bora. They stay in the four seasons where they do lots of activities, one of which is a favorite of Mark’s: scuba diving. On their fifth day of the trip, a tropical storm hits. It’s scary, but they make the most of it. Once the weather clears, they decide to go out and scuba dive a small a small island all on their own. When they get there, Mark admits he hasn’t wanted to tell Erin, but these waters are shark infested. Erin is frightened, of course, but she trusts her husband’s judgment and they have a great time. On their way back, they be on their way back they come upon a large amount of papers in the water. A padlocked duffel bag is also floating there. After some debate, they decide to take the bag to the hotel and turn it in. But there’s a mix up because the locked bag ends up back in their hotel room. And one night after a lot of champagne, they start to cut into the canvas. Inside, there’s a million dollars in cash and 200 diamonds, along with a gun, a cell phone, and a USB drive.
BrookThey return to the coordinates where they found the bag and Mark dives down to see if there’s a wreck. It’s a plane crash, probably from the tropical storm. Mark tells Erin there were bodies inside the plane and other things proving they were quote-unquote bad people. Back at the hotel they start to look into lost planes or missing persons reports without much luck. Erin decides she can learn the victim’s identities by turning on the cell phone. And as long as she puts it directly into airplane mode, none of these “bad people” would be able to trace the location of the phone. Unfortunately, Erin still turns on the wifi. And when she does, a new text message comes through. Worse, Erin responds. Erin and Mark do their best to cover their tracks at the resort and then fly home earlier than planned.
BrookThey don’t want to be there if and when someone comes looking for the duffel bag. Except for the gun, they take the items from the bag with them hidden in their luggage. When they get home, they hide the loot in their attic. Soon, Erin discovers she’s pregnant, but she decides not to tell Mark this yet. Within a week, the couple travels to Switzerland and sets up a Swiss bank account to launder the stolen money. They will filter it through Erin’s freelance business account. Mark’s mom calls to tell them another couple died at the resort in a scuba diving accident. And Mark must admit to Erin that he told a member of the hotel staff that this couple were the ones who had the duffel bag. Realization sets in that they likely died in Mark and Erin’s place.
BrookTrying not to draw attention to themselves, they go about their daily lives. Erin continues preparation for her documentary, and Mark takes steps to open his own financial firm. They also make attempts to sell the diamonds, but it’s not as easy as they had hoped. Mark thinks they should just dump them, but Erin doesn’t want to give up yet. On one of her trips to the prison for an interview, Erin’s approached by a man who calls himself Patrick, claiming to be an employee. He gets details about her before Erin realizes he’s lying, and when she gets home, the back door of their house is ajar. When she tells Mark her concerns, he has an explanation for everything and tells her to relax. On the day of Erin’s documentary interview with gangster Eddie Bishop, she finds him extremely charming and they end up making a pact. She agrees to help him make amends with his estranged daughter, and he agrees to help her sell the diamonds.
BrookMark is not happy with the plan, but Erin assures him that she trusts Eddie, and in fact, everything goes smoothly. With the cash and diamonds taken care of, all the couple has to contend with is the cell phone and the USB drive. They agree that they’re going to dump them in a wooded area they know of, but first, Mark is scheduled to take a work trip to the US. Once he’s gone, Erin can’t help herself. She turns the cell phone on and is shocked to find that it has been active since they left Bora Bora and there have been messages exchanged making a $2 million deal for the USB drive. It has to be Mark who did it. Erin takes it upon herself to carry out the exchange while Mark is away. With advice from imprisoned Eddie, she makes arrangements to leave the USB drive in the woods at a certain GPS location.
BrookUnfortunately, the night after she buries it, she wakes up to someone in her hotel room. It’s the man she knows as Patrick. Thankfully, a text from Mark comes through that he’s tracked her phone and will come at once. Erin’s knocked unconscious by the man and when she comes to, she’s alone in the hotel room and Patrick has taken her cell phone. Worried that Mark will follow her phone tracker and end up getting ambushed by Patrick, she goes to the place she buried the USB drive to intercept them. Mark is already there, and Erin’s confused to find him helping another well-dressed man look for the memory stick. Neither of them see Erin, so she watches and listens. She learns Mark is planning to cut her out of the $2 million deal. But when he can’t provide the man with the coordinates to the plane crash, Mark’s shot and killed. On her way to a payphone to call Eddie for advice, Erin also finds Patrick dead.
BrookEddie tells Erin to bury the bodies. And a few days later, she reports Mark missing, editing the narrative of the story to work in her favor as if she were making a documentary. So Sarah, there are multiple places that we could ask our favorite question, what would you do? But I was wondering if we want to go quite But I was wondering if we want to go back to the beginning. And my first question is, what would you do if your fiancé suddenly wants to basically cancel the wedding and just have a backyard potluck?
SarahWell, before I answer that, let me say thank you for that great summary, Brook. You definitely caught all of the high points and I can’t wait to talk to you about this book and all of the different choices that Erin could have made. So yeah, if if I’d been planning a really big, lavish, expensive wedding and then was strongly encouraged to consider a backyard wedding in its place, I might be a little bit um concerned, but she knows that he has been let go of at work right so she does understand that their financial situation is perhaps not as stable as it had been when they made these original plans so um you know i think i would be understanding, maybe a little bit disappointed, but realized that it was for the best in the long run. And you know maybe I would ask for a promise of a larger, more lavish party at some point in the future. What about you, Brook?
BrookThat’s a great compromise. And yeah, I… I could see where Erin was coming from because you know that’s the advice, isn’t it? It’s not about the wedding. It’s about the marriage. What’s really important here? So, I understood that choice of hers as well. Although um I think that that is probably one of our first red flags that Mark is maybe not the guy she thinks he is. But of course, way back then, I don’t think even as the reader, we really were picking up on that yet.
SarahNo, because it was a very logical suggestion for him to make, right? Like we need to really pare this down. We’re still going to have this really nice honeymoon. It’s not going to be three weeks, but let’s face it, a three-week honeymoon in Bora Bora is probably a bit excessive anyway.
BrookAbsolutely. Like a two-week honeymoon period is pretty ah fantastic. And then they had this, you know, five-star resort. So, it was great.
SarahSo I felt the like the real what would you do questions kind of came later in the book. There was a lot of buildup to get to those questions.
BrookMm hmm.
SarahBut for me, one of the first ones was, would you pick up the bag from the water?
BrookYeah, I have that highlighted in my notes as well. And I think that these exercises always demonstrate basically that I’m a big chicken because I’m like, leave it there. Just leave it there. And of course, I don’t want them to because I want this thrill ride to happen. But I would probably just want to speed away. And I was discussing this. I listened to a large part of this audio book in the car with my husband. So he got to tell me, “oh, I would totally take it”. He said he would do what the characters say, that he would turn it in. But yeah, I would leave it there.
SarahI I mean, I think I’m probably with your husband. I probably would pick it up and say, look, we found this. This is where we found it. We don’t know how it got there. But, you know, this is um it’s not ours, but you know maybe someone should should take a look and see what’s happened.
BrookExactly. And you know then you can get the authorities involved and um but because at this point they have no idea what the crash is about. And it seems like something that the authorities need to be told about after this big storm, right?
SarahExactly. But then there’s the mix up at the hotel and the bag gets returned to them. And then they have this drunken night and the next morning Erin realizes that they tried to open it. And well, we’ve gotten this far. Why don’t we actually ah open it up and see what’s inside? And then they realize that they have stumbled across quite likely stolen goods.
BrookUh-huh, exactly. And that whoever is going to be looking for this duffel bag is likely not going to be a nice person and quite dangerous.
SarahSo then they decide to go back to the crash site.
BrookYeah. And, you know, there’s a ah large description, and I didn’t include this in the summary, but they discuss some of the laws around things you find at sea. And there’s flotsam and there’s jetsam and there’s a lot of different rules depending on where you are. So this was to help them determine whether or not they could viably keep this all to themselves with no strings attached. And really the proof that they find, they decide that yes, this is this is something that we could keep. I mean, minus the fact that there’s probably criminals who also want their stuff back. But as far as legalities go, it was, it’s probably belongs to them.
SarahThey go back to the dive site and Mark dives down to assess, can he figure out who this money, who these diamonds might belong to?
BrookIf Erin had the knowledge that she does at the end of the book I wonder what she would do because really she’s relying completely on Mark’s report of what he finds down there. And of course now that we’ve reached the end we know that perhaps he didn’t tell the truth at all.
SarahI think that he was truthful in acting in their interests until this point or shortly after this point. I like I don’t think he was working with the smugglers or anything like that, but…
SarahYou know, maybe it was in the back of his mind that he wasn’t going to bring Erin along for the rest of this ride, but he did need to get some information so that he could figure out who the stolen goods belonged to.
SarahBut I do think that it was… Well, although he’s pretty clever at the hotel, isn’t he, in terms of convincing the hotel staff so that Erin can erase the video footage. And yeah, I don’t know, Brook. Maybe you’re right.
BrookIt’s a slippery, it’s a slippery situation and, really, we don’t get much of an answer to that. So, it’s fun to speculate just like this, Sarah. But we can’t say, what would you do? Would you dive down with him? Because it’s made clear that it’s so deep that Erin doesn’t have that diving skill. She doesn’t even have that option to go down with him.
SarahNo, she she doesn’t have the right certification, but also I don’t think she’s got the confidence, right?
SarahShe’s not ah very comfortable under the water. And so it makes a lot of sense that she does not join Mark on this.
BrookSo the next situation that is just gut wrenching for me is when Erin decides to charge and turn on the cell phone. What about you, Sarah? Would you have done that?
SarahI don’t know because I understand the desire to figure out like who are these people and how bad are they? How likely are they to come and find this? um Because maybe they’re all dead on the bottom of the ocean floor, right? um But yeah, so I kind of understand why she did it. Would I though? Probably not. I think this is where I start to become a chicken.
BrookYeah, I agree, Sarah. I think that once again, it’s a turn it over to the authorities situation because they certainly can do that, right? They can trace where cell phones have been used and find out who has access to things. And it would have been a safer bet. But we’ve already entered into the fact that they’re really trying to do their best to keep this these funds. Mark’s lost his job. This amount would pay off their house and give them a very healthy nest egg to move forward with. And so there’s there are those stakes. They would lose it all, likely, if they turned it in.
BrookOne thing that works as a disadvantage to Erin is that she is this documentary filmmaker. She’s very familiar with researching. And so I think that she has a confidence in that that maybe gets her into more trouble.
SarahYeah, and and the curiosity that comes with that, right? And so it may be, you know, she just can’t help herself. What about Brook when they’re preparing to leave and ah they do a couple of things. They, I mentioned earlier, you know, figure out how to wipe kind of video footage of Erin having been in the business center and and turning on this phone. And then she describes how they smuggle the money and the diamonds by sewing them into the linings of their suitcases. And would you think to do that, Brook?
BrookI thought that was very, um like it it makes me wonder where they got this idea, although they do Google a lot of things, which also is nerve-wracking to me. But you know they sew the money and the lining of their suitcases, and she’s very meticulous about keeping it the same um you know width or depth, however you want to think of it, so that it appears to be lining. There’s no bulges. And then, you know, she hides the diamonds in some sanitary products. So, you know, she’s like, nobody looks through those. Right.
BrookYeah. Pretty clever. I must say, although I would still have been so nervous on the way home, I don’t know that I could have even made it.
SarahNo, and I mean, I think that much cash is probably pretty heavy.
BrookOh, good point.
SarahSo, you know, I don’t know how they, obviously they weren’t challenged because they were traveling first class and she makes a point of, you know, that those passengers don’t get the same level of scrutiny that other passengers might, so they can take advantage of that. But yeah, I just can’t imagine like trying to lug this extra heavy suitcase through the airport.
Brook100 percent.
SarahSo when they get home and she continues with her documentary project and she goes and and um visits Eddie, whom she’s she’s already met him. While they’re away, he sends her champagne and that makes her a little bit uncomfortable because she realizes that he knows exactly where she is. But this also, I think, signals to her that he has a lot of connections and ah so she reaches out to him for some help in how to deal with these diamonds. Would you have done that, Brook?
BrookAgain, I feel like this is similar to the hiding this stuff in the suitcases. Like I’m pretty impressed that she thought on her feet so quickly because she didn’t know that he was going to ask her for the favor to visit with his daughter and try to make amends with her. But she very quickly says, oh, okay, well, let me ask you for something back. And maybe she had that plan in the back of her mind because like you said, she has been interacting with him and realizing, oh my gosh, even though this guy’s in prison, he still is very much active on the outside.
Brookmaybe she had that plan um in the back of her mind. it And it was a great plan because it works. And I feel like Eddie is almost um kind of fatherly to her and she feels a ah real affection for him and and I think vice versa too.
SarahYeah, I would agree. He’s one of those really likable criminals, right? He, yes, he has ah made a career out of doing probably some very bad things, but he cares for his daughter, right? He wants to repair that relationship and he clearly has some affection for Erin. He’s one of those villains that you cheer for.
SarahUm, so, and, and I think she’s in a place where she doesn’t know who else to turn to. It’s not like she has a contact list of people who are criminal like, so, you know, who else is she going to trust?
BrookYes. And they have made some attempts to move the diamonds and they were hitting dead ends. And Mark has given her a bit of a ah deadline at this point because he’s telling her he just wants to dump them. And so she says, give me one more chance. And that chance is Eddie. So I, I guess I can see how she came to that decision.
SarahIt’s not a red flag for her when Mark says, let’s just get rid of the diamonds. When I think was their value one million or two million? I can’t remember.
BrookI think they expect them to be about a million.
SarahRight. Which is, you know, I guess easy come, easy go, but when you’ve almost got that money, like, of course you’re going to try one last thing. So here’s my, what would you do question for you, Brook is would that raise any flags for you when your husband says, you know what, let’s just toss these into the river.
BrookIt would definitely make me raise my eyebrows and be curious of what’s going on, just simply because it is so much value there. And I think that’s one of the frustrating things about Erin is, okay, we’ve got Mark changing the trip on his own. Mark can’t, you know, basically saying we must cancel the wedding. The big festivities. Oh, by the way, there are sharks in these waters while we’re wading in.
SarahIn the water.
BrookIt’s frustrating that we don’t, we have so many of Erin’s internal thoughts, but we never hear her, but she never questions Mark. She’s 100% trusting of him all throughout.
BrookAnd maybe it would have been too much of a giveaway considering that we do know what the ending is to have that character question him. But yeah, I would be like, what in the heck is going on? Why don’t you want this money?
SarahYeah. And she kind of slowly reaches this conclusion that, you know what, my face is the one, you know, I’m the one who opened up the numbered account. I’m the one who has been trying to arrange for these diamonds, right?
SarahLike I’ve been meeting with potential diamond brokers. So she kind of slowly realizes that he has not, he’s been doing all the back end stuff, but hasn’t been putting himself forward and and in any risky situations.
BrookThat’s right. This isn’t necessarily a what would you do, Sarah, but a ah could you believe it, that she was accomplishing all of these um extremely adventurous and ah clever situations all while she was about six to eight weeks pregnant. And I don’t know about you, but that was not one of my most ah energetic or best times of my life.
SarahYou’re right, Brook, the ah first couple of months of pregnancy can be quite tiring, um but I think maybe it’s the promise of the better life that they’re going to have that provides her with the energy to do all of this.
BrookYeah. And we do hear that in her, in her thoughts a lot, like, this is why I’m doing this. We’ll pay off the house. We’ll have this, you know, start for our new family. I was just very impressed that, um, there isn’t a lot of mention of, you know, morning sickness or being tired and good for her, good for Erin.
SarahBut would you keep the pregnancy from your husband?
BrookYou know, I think that’s something else that is a theme through this book is, yes, Mark ends up being, you know, the the actual villain of the story, but Erin continues to lie to him in different ways throughout or keep information from him throughout the relationship. And so there’s this idea that this is this picture perfect, they’re just so much in love couple. But you know she lies to him a lot as well. And no, I don’t think at some point in all these very crucial moments, I would have felt responsible to tell him it’s his child too.
SarahWell, and, and I think it is also a pregnancy that they wanted. And so there’s, you know, that kind of excitement around, Hey, this is actually going to happen. Um, but maybe, maybe she doesn’t realize that she’s recognized these red flags and that’s why she hasn’t told him about the pregnancy.
BrookMm hmm. Yeah, I like that. I like that explanation that she’s sort of denying what she sees coming, because in the end, it didn’t matter if she told him or not. Right. He he was gone.
SarahYeah, yeah, exactly.
SarahSo when she finds the USB that he has moved from their original hiding spot, um and I can’t remember if she tries to see what’s on the USB or not, but this is when she goes to Leister Square, turns on the phone again, and realizes that, hey, Mark’s been communicating with these people. And so then she says, all right, I’m going to do the USB drop. She approaches that with a lot of ah planning as well. And again, I’m impressed with just her knowledge of how to do that kind of a thing, right? The sending um kind of multiple sets of GPS coordinates. And I mean, I just I don’t know if I would be able to figure all that out.
BrookIt seemed very sophisticated for someone who, you know, at the beginning of the book, you know, she’s, I don’t know, doing which part of this these steps and she says, you know, it’s not like I’m a spy or anything, but By the end, she’s kind of acting like a spy.
SarahYeah, yeah. And, you know, she’s got some coaching from Eddie along the way. um And I don’t remember Eddie’s companion. What is his name?
SarahSimon Wright. So she’s got coaching from Eddie in prison and his man on the outside, Simon, along the way. But neither of them really step in until she phones Eddie after Mark and Patrick are dead and and everything has kind of fallen apart.
BrookThat’s right. Yeah, I was again as as we’ve mentioned a few times now pretty impressed by her level of thinking. But I guess the what would you do in that section for me is Would you would the light bulb finally come on that your husband was planning this behind your back. And she calls him, doesn’t she? She calls him and she confronts him. And once again, he has a way to explain everything. “I’ll be home you know by tomorrow night and will you know it’s it’ll all be okay.” And she believes him and she thinks, “okay, well, I’ll just do this ah on my own for us.”
BrookBut I’m not sure if that would be enough for me. I’d be really curious why things had been moved and he’s been communicating with the um you know the criminals behind my back.
SarahYeah, she is very blindly accepting his explanations, and it’s really not until she sees him in the woods that she’s like, “oh, hey, he’s been lying to me.”
BrookExactly. It has to be right there.
BrookWell, Sarah, this was a fantastic novel for a “what would you do exercise” and I’m so glad that we did it.
SarahYeah, I really enjoyed um this book and I think it’s worth mentioning that the author, Katherine Steadman, she narrates the audio version but because she’s also an actress and I thought she did a terrific job and it was, you know, it’s a treat to hear an author narrate their their own work.
BrookYeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. She does a fantastic job. It’s it’s really well done um audiobook so ah kudos to her on that. Well, thank you, Sarah, and thank you everyone for joining us today on Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah, and we both love mystery.