Holt Davidson, a Kansas firefighter, hasn’t been back to his hometown of Thompsonville, Colorado, for more than two decades, but when he learns that his estranged mother has taken her own life, he returns for the funeral, hoping to make peace with her memory. He spends the night at his childhood home, rummaging through each room, exploring the past. But instead of nostalgic souvenirs, he discovers a gun, a love letter, and a Polaroid photograph of a man lying in his own blood.
Who is the dead man? Was his mother the one who killed him, and, if so, why? Who sent the love letter? And what role did his sister, institutionalized since she was a teenager, play in this act of violence? As his own traumatic memories begin to resurface, Holt begins an investigation into his mother’s and sister’s pasts—as well as his own.
A wrenching psychological thriller in the vein of Tana French’s In the Woods, Jon Bassoff’s Beneath Cruel Waters reminds us that the sins of the mothers are the sins of the sons.
“Jon Bassoff’s writing is as gritty as a bloodstained baby blanket. His latest, Beneath Cruel Waters, is a disturbing tale of secrets and sins that challenges the myths at the heart of a most dangerous institution—the family. This relentless exposure of one man’s destructive re-creation of his forgotten past rejects and then recasts assumptions about the redemptive power of forgiveness and the saving grace of the truth. Readers beware. Buckle up for a nightmarish trip through more than one level of American hell.”
-Manuel Ramos, author of Angels in the Wind
“The antidote to every sappy, saccharine story you’ve ever read. Jon Bassoff is the master of the bleak. No one makes desperate characters and their miserable plights so entertaining.”
-Mario Acevedo, author of the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series
“I’ve read and loved all of Bassoff’s previous novels, but this one hit me hard. It scars. A haunting, beautifully written, breathlessly tense, dread-filled meditation on guilt and memory that will linger in your mind long after you’ve read it.”
-Ivan Kavanagh, director of Never Grow Old, starring John Cusack
“Brilliant, dark, compelling, and heartbreaking…Filled with unexpected twists and brutal truths, the novel will stay with you long after you finish it. Settle in for a new Colorado classic.”
-David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Edgar and Anthony-nominated author of Winter Counts
“A haunting, lyrical tale of family madness and the sins of the past from which we can never wash ourselves clean. Beneath Cruel Waters is a twisty, page-turning novel.”
-Barbara Nickless, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Sydney Parnell crime novels
“Jon Bassoff proves he’s not only a master of horror but can weave a chilling noir. A slow-burning tale of generational suffering that inches its way toward heartbreaking reveals for a family in desperate need of hope and deliverance.”
-Aaron Philip Clark, author of Under Color of Law
“A cleverly constructed morality tale…In a style reminiscent of Raymond Carver, Jon Bassoff is a master at creating a world that’s both simple and complex.”
-Charles Salzberg, Shamus Award–nominated author of the Henry Swann novels
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 10 members
It’s been twenty years since Holt Davidson has been back to the Colorado town he called home. Eager to escape his controlling mother and his sister, locked away in a mental institution since her teenage years, Holt started a new life in Kansas. Now, after the suicide of his mother, Holt returns home, hoping to lay the past to rest. What he uncovers is a bizarre and shocking mystery – a gun and a photograph of a man lying in a pool of blood. Was his mother the shooter? Or did his emotionally unstable sister have something to do with it. Bassoff is an author to watch, this story is a complex, multilayered mystery that put me in mind of Jane Harper
Blackstone Publishing, Thank You for this eARC! Beneath Cruel Waters By Jon Bassoff Here we have Holt, A firefighter living in Kansas. He hasn't been back to his small hometown of Thompsonville, Colorado, for almost twenty years. But after learning that his estranged mother has sadly taken her own life, he goes back for the funeral, hoping to make truce with her memory. Staying in his childhood home and going through each room taking a trio down memory lane. I stayed of emotional souvenirs, he finds a love letter, a gun and a photograph of A strange man lying in his very own blood! Did his mother kill this man? And who is he? And who could have possibly sent this letter? Could his unstable sister have played a role in any of this? He soon starts feeling the past catch up to him and memories begin to come to light. Holt starts his own investigation into his mother’s and sister’s pasts as well as his own. This is my first book written by Jon. And it was honestly better than I expected! A creative and fascinating novel. That had me reading until early morning hours. It captivated me with it’s puzzling mystery and beautifully written story. Our characters I couldn't have been any more intrigued than I already was. The moments spent with these characters were exciting and suspenseful. This intricate plot takes you on a full investigation from beginning to climactic end. There are many twists and surprises which keep ramping up the stakes and tension throughout the story. I thought the mystery itself was interesting, it had several layers to it and kept you engaged as the facts began to reveal themselves.
Jon Bassoff is one of the best and most prolific writers working today. This book is full of drama, family secrets, deception, lies, and human frailty. This book is phenomenal in every way. So different from his other works I've read, but just as powerful and captivating. This is a book not to be skipped.
Beneath Cruel Waters is my first book by Jon Bassoff. This is a chilling, compelling and haunting read and must admit not for the faint-hearted. There are plenty of trigger warnings of violence, death ad suicide. Jon's masterfully depicts and unveils deadly secrets and sins that shake the Davidson family's foundations. Returning to his hometown after two decades, Holt Davidson is not only mourning the loss of his mother but hidden demons that surface. This is magnified when he stumbles upon discovering a gun, a love letter, and a Polaroid photograph of a man lying in his blood - all clues to a repressive and destructive family secret. Immersed in this bleak and dark read, you are promised unforgettable twists and turns with an ending that might make you do a double-take. I feel I haven't left the daunting shackles of Thompsonville, Colorado, yet. A brilliant psychological thriller. Five stars all the way. A big thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for giving me an ARC. This honest review is left voluntarily.
This is not a lighthearted read and has some triggers but if you're not of the faint of heart, this will become you're first 5 star read of 2022!
In Beneath Cruel Waters, a troubled Holt Davidson is forced to return to his Thompsonville, Colorado hometown for the funeral of his even more troubled mother. A long-time neighbor and friend of Holt’s mother has called Holt to tell him his mother’s body had been found hanging from a tree by suicide, causing Holt to return to a place he left many years ago after hoping never to return. Holt grew up in a difficult home. His father abandoned his family, his sister Olphelia was removed from the home and institutionalized for mental illness when Holt was just five and his mother became obsessively fixated on religion and a search for redemption. On his return home and when in his mother’s bedroom, Holt discovers a hidey-hole in the floorboards, and inside is a revolver, a Polaroid photograph of a gunshot murdered man, and an unsigned love letter Holt believes was intended for his mother. Holt then attempts to unravel the meaning of the discoveries and finds along the way each discovery will return him to a past no one really will benefit from if fully revealed, including those suppressed memories within his own subconscious. With so many secrets in existence, many of them subconsciously with just enough of a presence to tease snippets of long-forgotten memories to the surface, Holt is forced to look backward to a life he fled, ending with what he knows will be drastic repercussions on his future life. Beneath Cruel Waters is a well-written, darkly themed novel with an interesting plot and comes with an atmosphere of rural or country noir in a setting where many things are not always what they seem to be. Some readers have expressed the novel is bleak and harsh, but readers familiar with Bassoff’s writing will not be surprised or disappointed. Bassoff’s writing is lyrically crafted and in a manner not to be overly descriptive with wasted and unnecessary verbiage, with him creating a dark and ominous novel with well-developed characters. Beneath Cruel Waters is with violent depictions, however, they are necessary for the telling of the story and not done in a gratuitous manner. While I would have preferred a stronger ending, Beneath Cruel Waters is highly recommended to readers that enjoy darker fiction. Netgalley provided an ARC of Beneath Cruel Waters for the promise of a fair review and is set to be published in May of 2022.