Two violent deaths in the same spot 34 years apart bookend an American family horror story from the heartland.
In 2018, Vivian Davidson returns to the ruin of the house in Thompsonville, Colorado, where she shot former lover Ruben Ray to death back in 1984, to hang herself. Why did she kill Ruben, and why did she wait so long after getting away with murder to kill herself? These are only the first of the many questions that torment Holt Davidson, the son who pulls himself away from his job as a firefighter in Topeka to come to her funeral after learning of his mother's death from her best friend, police widow Joyce Brandt. It’s a small service, attended mostly by Pastor Boswell and Vivian’s fellow congregants from the First Lutheran Church. Vivian’s brother, musician Bobby Hartwick, isn’t there because he’s playing on the road somewhere, and Holt’s older sister, Ophelia Davidson, isn’t there because she’s staying in a halfway house after long years of institutionalization following a breakdown. Looking through his mother’s house in search of answers, Holt finds several things—a handgun, a Polaroid shot of the dead Ruben, an unsigned love letter—that raise even more questions, and he sets out in dogged pursuit of the truth. Each damning new confession he wrings from the people connected to the two fatalities attempts to paper over the even more shocking revelations to come, and each of these revelations brings new grief. No wonder Holt tells Joyce: “I should stop digging. Before it’s too late.” But it’s already too late.
A powerful family melodrama drenched in sadness and guilt with hints of redemption.
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.”
author of the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series Mario Acevedo
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 that asks profound questions—what are we willing to do for those we love? And what happens to our souls when love leads us to sin?”
Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Sydn Barbara Nickless
Jon Bassoff only gets stranger, and better, with each novel. I don’t know what to do with his hypnotic, earthly, yet always surprising voice. I only know there isn’t anything else like it out there. Part mystery, part heartland crime, part horror…Let’s call it nouveau-noir Americana. If you’ve got the stomach for riding the original underbelly of modern fiction and want it high octane, Bassoff’s latest will scratch the itch like only the finest of 100-proof bottles can do.”
internationally bestselling author of The Birthing Christopher Ransom
This is a haunting and disturbing yet compelling novel, in the vein of Jen Williams’s
A Dark and Disturbing Place and C. J. Tudor’s The Burning Girls.”
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.”
author of Under Color of Law Aaron Philip Clark
Beneath Cruel Waters is brilliant, dark, compelling, and heartbreaking. The story of Holt Davidson and his journey to uncover family secrets is not only a page-turner, but an immersive character study and an engrossing examination of rural Colorado life. 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.”
Edgar and Anthony-nominated author of Winter Count David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Jon Bassoff draws you in without being brash about it. The writing is subtle and nuanced, so as the story unfolds, it is a shock that
Beneath Cruel Waters is such a disturbingly dark mystery…A chilling, must-read book!”
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.”
author of Angels in the Wind Manuel Ramos
A psychological thriller like no other, Bassoff weaves a tale that is sure to capture the reader’s attention from the opening pages.”
Jon Bassoff never wastes a word in this pitch-perfect tooth-chipper of a novel about the frayed realities of the human condition. His prose crafts a claustrophobic and haunted past in order to decipher the pieces of a tortured present. A mesmerizing and satisfying display of storytelling.”
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.”
Beneath Cruel Waters is a cleverly constructed morality tale that grabs hold violently in the first chapter and then gently guides us the rest of the way. In a style reminiscent of Raymond Carver, Jon Basoff is a master at creating a world that’s both simple and complex, a world where most struggle to keep their heads above water, a world of long-buried family secrets that inevitably lead to tragedy.”
Shamus Award–nominated author of the Henry S Charles Salzberg
Beneath Cruel Waters is an intense, gripping, exceptionally written mystery thriller that everyone must read. Bassoff has always been one of the best, but this unputdownable novel catapults him to another level.”
internationally bestselling author of The Next Tim Jason Starr