Book Review: “Bait” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

They eat us to live. We eat them to live forever.

When Tomás Torres agrees to consult on an unsuccessful breeding program for a rare species, he finds his new patients are fish with oddly humanoid face and torso — merfolk.

The legend that eating a mermaid will grant immortality seems to be based loosely in fact, and early trials suggest their meat is a powerful curative with incredible potential. The corporation with a successful fish farm will command nutrition and pharmaceutical markets. But many of the fish are not reproducing.

Before they can even begin to evaluate the breeding program, Tomás and fellow consultant Dr. Alyssa Cooper learn staff at the facility are dying, devoured after falling into tanks they had no reason to approach. Tomás and Alyssa set out to discover the secrets of the carnivorous mermaids — but Nature will not wait for research.

What with teaching, running a business, and writing my own books, my time to read is very limited. That’s why I love books like Bait by Laura VanArendonk Baugh.

Bait is a nice, effective little thrill that was easy to page through and hit all the right notes. Could there have been more characterization and dialogue? Sure. Would I have liked more world-building? I’ll never say no to that. But what I really needed was an enjoyable escape, and this book fit the bill.

The world-building that does exist is solid. For a hard science fiction thriller, believable science is the highest priority, and the author delivers her pseudo-science efficiently and intelligently. Plus, the mermaids-as-monster trope works very well. Monster factor for the win!

Final Verdict: Bait is a quick, intense read that I was able to gobble down in snatches of time and for that, I am very grateful. The fear factor is potent but not gratuitous. Good job!

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