Beneath Cruel Waters
May 1, 2022

Book Review

Beneath Cruel Waters

reviewed by Sadie Hartmann “Mother Horror”

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Beneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff is an intricately plotted thriller mystery pulling readers in with the same level of intensity that hasn’t been seen since Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Holt Davidson makes a trip to his hometown for the funeral of his mother who took her own life. During the time he spends in his childhood home, he uncovers a letter and a photograph his mother had hidden away. Holt begins investigating the origins of the found objects by talking to family friends and visiting the local library. As the story unfolds, Holt’s repressed memories of strange circumstances from his family’s past begin resurfacing. 

Bassoff uses narratives from the past and the present to bring readers along on Holt’s journey of discovery. The more information Holt uncovers, the more complicated the mystery becomes. Ultimately, Holt must confront some very unpleasant facts about his family and why everyone is estranged from one another. His sister is in a mental health facility and for whatever reason, Holt avoided visiting her. Curiosity begins tugging at his mind and there are pieces to the puzzle that only his sister would have in order to make a complete picture.

The author does an excellent job developing past and present timelines so that they run side by side with the truth. It is extremely satisfying to know that eventually, the two timelines will converge into some kind of breakthrough for Holt. One of the least enjoyable aspects of modern thrillers is the literary device to employ an unreliable narrator (usually a woman) to pull the wool over readers’ eyes so that the truth is a total blindside. The author holding back all the cards without allowing readers to assist in solving the mystery for themselves because they don’t have enough of the important details.

In Beneath Cruel Waters, Bassoff peels back layers slowly and reveals secrets and details a little at a time so that savvy thriller readers can collect clues, bits and pieces of information, and formulate theories. Even then, seasoned thriller junkies still high off the gold standard of Gone Girl can expect the unexpected.

This is one of the best thrillers on the market. It needs a movie adaptation immediately.

Beneath Cruel Waters is available at:


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