These cold winter days, I am reminded of why I decided to write The Oyster Thief in the first place. It was the winter of 2015, and I wanted a winter escape. I dreamt of a vast beautiful underwater world. I didn’t quite know how to reach it, so I decided to create it myself.
The world I envisioned brimmed with not only brightly colored fish and algae, but also merpeople. In my imagination, merpeople lived deep below the waves. They lived in rounded homes made of stone, which looked like swellings rising off the seabed. Merpeople lived among coral reefs and gardens of algae. (Given that the majority of algae are red, their gardens were more red in color than green.)
In my imagination, merpeople used sea-shells as currency (as some human tribes have in the past, hence the expression “shelling out money”). Their lives were similar to human lives in some respects—for instance, they danced and they ate dessert—but their lives were also different—for instance, their dances had names like the Seahorse Sprance and the Undulating Jellyfish, and a popular dessert for them was devil’s apron, a kind of sugar kelp.
If you’d like to behold the world of merpeople, you can do so in this 4-minute video for which I wrote the script based on The Oyster Thief. More than a million people have watched it.
If you’d like to be in the world of merpeople, you can do so by reading this BRAND-NEW excerpt from The Oyster Thief, never before shared outside of the book. If you’ve read The Oyster Thief, you know that almost all of the story is depicted from the perspective of the two protagonists, mermaid Coralline and human Izar. But one of my favorite scenes in the story is from the perspective of Coralline’s fiancé, Ecklon, a handsome and brilliant detective. Below, he investigates the murder of a merman named Tang—a murder in which Coralline is the principal suspect.
EXCERPT: ECKLON’S INVESTIGATION
Ecklon often knew how difficult a murder case would be as soon as he swam through the door of the murder scene. This would be a difficult case, he recognized, as he swam through the door of Tang Tarpon’s home.
His gaze roved over the half-dozen empty decanters of wine forming a semicircle on the floor. His attention then shifted to Tang’s bookshelf. Ecklon had read two of Tang’s murder mysteries, The Vanished Whelk and The Under-Minister’s Assassination, and he’d liked them, finding them to be full of uncanny surprises and unexpected twists.
Tang’s body was no longer in the living room—it was being examined by the Forensics Department of the Under-Ministry of Crime and Murder—but the smell of his blood lingered. The murder-mystery writer had, ironically, become the subject of his own real-life murder mystery.
Most people wanted to have an interesting life, but Ecklon also wanted to have an interesting death—a death of the sort for which a detective like himself would be required. He wondered whether Tang had felt similarly; probably not.
Ecklon slipped away from the bookshelf and looked about the small, shabby living room. His gaze dropped to the murder weapon on the floor, a dagger with a serpent-encrusted hilt. He collected the dagger, ran his hand over its hilt. He had a passion for daggers, as did many at the Detective Department of the Under-Ministry of Crime and Murder. He was attentive to the style of dagger carving, just as mermaids were attentive to the style of their bodices; he evaluated dagger blades on the basis of their shine and sharpness, just as mermaids evaluated fabrics on the basics of their sheen and softness. The merman who’d owned this serpent-encrusted dagger seemed to have a passion for daggers as well.
Ecklon would begin his murder investigation by interviewing dagger carvers in an attempt to learn the identity of the owner of this dagger. Dagger carvers were often ancient mermen, for dagger carving was an art that was becoming lost over time—a shame, in Ecklon’s opinion. The elderly age of dagger carvers meant two things: Their memories were often weak, and they may have sold a dagger decades ago, making recollection of the purchaser difficult. But Ecklon would have to try nonetheless. Once he had an identity, it wouldn’t take long to find a motive, he knew from experience. Placing the serpent-encrusted dagger carefully in his satchel, he extracted his own dagger.
His dagger had been designed by the most elderly dagger carver in Urchin Grove, an eighty-five-year-old merman with arthritic hands, and it featured an eagle ray wing across the hilt, because Ecklon’s muse Menziesii was an eagle ray. He had not told Coralline, but, soon after their wedding, Ecklon planned to return to the same dagger carver and have a new dagger designed for himself, one encrusted with the precious olive-green gemstone peridot in the branching shape of coralline algae. That way, Ecklon would think of Coralline every time he wielded his dagger—and he would wield it always to protect her, to protect them.
He remembered the day he’d tried to teach her how to wield a dagger. After some half-hearted flicking of her wrist, she had handed his dagger back to him. He had put his dagger away patiently, deciding to try to teach her again after they were married. He carried a dagger and a pair of handcuffs in his satchel at all times, to defend and to intercept, respectively; it was imperative to him that his wife know how to wield the former and stay out of the latter.