Beneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff

EXCERPT: ‘You can do better,’ he said. ‘But you knew that.’

‘We all knew that!’ Joyce said.

Mike glanced at his wife and then back at Vivian.

‘Listen to me. He bothers you again, you let me know. And in the meantime, it’s probably a good idea for you to make sure you can protect yourself.’

He reached into his pocket and took out a little .38 Special revolver and placed it on the counter.

Vivian shook her head. ‘I don’t need that Mike.’

‘I’m sure you won’t. But with a fellow like Ruben around, I just figured . . . well, only take it if you want to. Only if you feel comfortable.’

For a few moments, Vivian remained where she was. Mike and Joyce watched her, waiting. She squeezed her eyes shut and visualized Ruben and his dead fish eyes, and her skin began to itch and she wanted to scream.

She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she took a few steps over to the counter. She grabbed the gun and held it in her hand.

It felt cold and heavy and terrible.

ABOUT ‘BENEATH CRUEL WATERS’: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘The past tortures the present.’

The timeline moves between the past, the 1970/80s and 2018, and Holt’s, Vivian’s and Ophelia’s perspectives.

Beneath Cruel Waters is a dark and disturbing psychological family drama with layers of obfuscation, lies and secrets.

Vivian is a single mother, lonely, and becomes obsessed with religion. She has a brother, Bobby, who blows in and out of her life like the restless, rootless soul he is, but other than that, appears to have no other family. She believes that if you ignore something for long enough, it will go away.

Ophelia is the older of Vivian’s two children. She is a teenager, full of hormones and angst and starved of love. She idolises her Uncle Bobby, fantasizing about going on the road with him, writing songs and making music.

Holt is her much younger brother. Ophelia both loves and resents him. As a child, he witnesses many things he doesn’t understand. As an adult, he is haunted by snatches of memory, some conflicting. Although it’s not his intention, when he returns home for his mother’s funeral he finds himself trying to make sense of these memories.

Beneath Cruel Waters is written in a quiet, almost dispassionate manner. The pace is steady. There’s no fireworks, no fanfare, no tricks – just good, plain storytelling. It’s not a story that I could say I ‘enjoyed’ – it’s far too melancholy for that; but it gripped and consumed and ate away at me until I read the last word and closed the cover, relieved that I hadn’t been born into that family.

If you’re looking for a thriller, Beneath Cruel Waters isn’t it. The same applies if you’re looking for a HAE. But if you’re looking for characters that are going to crawl from the page into your head, you’ve found them. But a warning; these characters are like earworm. Once they’re in your head, they’re near impossible to get rid of. And other than the tragic Ophelia (how could she be anything but with her name?) you’re not going to like them. You may feel sorry for them, for their circumstances, but you won’t like them.


#BeneathCruelWaters #NetGalley

I: @jonbassoff @blackstonepublishing

T: @jonbassoff @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: For his day job, Bassoff teaches high school English where he is known by students and faculty alike as the deranged writer guy. He is a connoisseur of tequila, hot sauces, psychobilly music, and flea-bag motels.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Beneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and

Author: sandysbookaday

I love good quality chocolate. I love the ocean and love to be in, on or beside it. I read any and every where. I am a proud mum and Nana. I like wine, gin, Southern Comfort, a cold Heineken on a hot day. I am very versatile like that. I cross stitch, do jigsaws, garden, and work on a farm. I am an occasional scribbler. I have far too many books I want to read to ever find the time to die. I am an active member of Goodreads as Sandy *the world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* and review on Amazon under the name Sandyj21. My Goodreads reviews are automatically linked to my Facebook page. Groups I belong to and participate in on Goodreads include: The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group; Mysteries and Crime Thrillers; Psychological Thrillers; Reading for Pleasure; Crime Detective Mystery Thrillers; English Mysteries; Dead Good Crime; Kindle English Mystery, All About Books and NZ Readers. April 2016 I made the Top 1% of Goodreads reviewers (As follows) Hello Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*, In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark!

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