• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Permuted Press (October 1, 2019)
“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”
Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.
Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.
Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.
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S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.
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S.R. Hughes’s novel The War Beneath is an excellent choice for anyone who likes paranormal thrillers, but it’s an equally good read for those who don’t require a paranormal element but like their lead characters a bit down at the heels.
In this novel, Hughes weaves the paranormal (protagonist Paul talks to ghosts) into the story quite organically, and the fact that the forensic psychologist doesn’t particularly want his ability adds depth to the entire story. Personally, I like it when authors give us reluctant heroes, and tarnished heroines. In Deirdre, we get the latter, and the fact that isn’t perfect – that neither of them are – is what makes the supernatural factor feel more plausible.
Two things I really appreciated about this book were Hughes’s ear for dialogue, and his descriptions. From the first page I could see Oceanrest, and from the first lines any character spoke, I knew exactly who they were.
The War Beneath is the kind of novel that sucks you in and doesn’t let go until you’ve finished the last page. I read it in a single night, because it was that compelling. Despite it being a quick read, though, it’s not light. Both Paul and Deirdre have to examine the truths of their own lives while they’re dealing with the external events of the story, and that examination is what makes this novel relatable and fascinating.
The War Beneath should be on the top of the TBR pile for fans of paranormal thrillers and “straight” thrillers alike.
Goes well with: cold beer and Maine lobster rolls.
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