Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 31, 2015)
The swamps and bayous around Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas have always been dark and mysterious, but on this summer day two boys stumble across the remains of a baby girl, headless and badly decomposed. Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past is called to the scene. With nothing to go on except the baby’s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick’s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the infant has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime he has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.
With the aid of his deputies, Hick will begin to piece together his investigation, an investigation that will lead him to question everything. As he is forced to examine the town he grew up in, he will come to terms with the notion that within each of us lays the propensity for both good and evil. His investigation will turn up lies and ignorance, scandal and deceit, and the lengths a mother will go in order to hide her shame.
Buy, read, and discuss Beneath Still Waters
Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She was the winner of several writing awards during her academic career and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Beneath Still Waters is her first novel.
Every once in a while, you come across a book that manages to merge two seemingly disparate elements into something amazing, compelling, and a thrill to read. For me, Beneath Still Waters was that kind of book.
First there was the mystery at the heart of the novel, a dead, decomposing infant is discovered and Hick the sheriff has to muster all his investigation skills to find the baby’s family, and determine the truth behind her cause of death. His interactions with the town doctor, who goes by Doc, are both honest and interesting. These are two men who have known each other forever, and that relationship jumps off the page.
Similarly, Hick’s more personal story, that of his relationship with Maggie, also pops. This is a couple that used to be together, isn’t when we meet them, and seems destined for reconciliation.
I loved the use of dialogue and dialect to be really deft in this novel. It gave a sense of time and place without ever creeping into caricature, and I also appreciated the rhythm of Graham’s prose. These characters, this story, really sing. I felt like I was visiting their town, and walking around with them.
The plot, too, was incredibly well crafted, and I particularly like that Hick’s sensitivity was a key point in both the story’s development and his own arc. He is a man of great feeling, but that makes him stronger rather than weaker.
While the infant plot is more than a little disturbing, especially in the early scenes where the state of the corpse is discussed in detail, the novel as a whole is cohesive, interesting, and manages to be homey and kind of creepy at the same time.
Goes well with a reuben sandwich and a cold beer.
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Monday, February 29th: Stranded in Chaos
Wednesday, March 2nd: Life is Story
Friday, March 4th: From the TBR Pile
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