Today I am reviewing Beneath Still Waters by Cynthia A. Graham for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
About the book (from the publisher): 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 but 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.
Set in the wake of World War II, Beneath Still Waters is a lyrical and haunting tale about the loss of innocence, the resilience of love, and the lengths to which people will go to survive.
My review: I really loved this gem of a novel. I was hooked from the first page and, at 215 pages, it turned out to be a fairly fast read. That was because I was riveted by the story, by the town of Cherokee Crossing and by the characters that came to life on the page.
It’s set in the years immediately following Word War II, and that placement in time is pivotal to the plot. Hick, the young sheriff, has recently returned from the war after enlisting at the age of 18. The Hick who comes back to Arkansas is not the same young man who left and the haunting memories he has of the war are taking over his life.
Graham has given us two parallel storylines; the war and the mark it has left on Hick, as well as the case he is investigating. She quite skillfully weaves these stories together. All of the supporting characters are strongly realized and Hick, the protagonist, is beautifully and heartbreakingly written.
In terms of setting, Graham has vividly created the world of a small and poor southern town in the years after the war. Cherokee Crossing is a character in and of itself. Her descriptions of place and time, land and water, are rich and eloquent. I felt I was there. I could see it all.
That doesn’t always happen in a novel.
Can Hick fight the demons and dreams that are haunting him? Can the mysterious death of a baby girl be solved?
I often think of my dad and the young men like him who enlisted at the young age of 18. So young, so innocent, so unprepared for the horrors of war. I think that’s why I found the character of Hick to be so compelling. Graham has written a powerful story of loss and sorrow and love and the need for redemption.
About the author: Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College of 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.
Unfortunately, there was no book giveaway in conjunction with this review, so I’m going to give away my copy of the book. I really want one of you to get the chance to read it. Don’t worry! My copy is in good condition!
Just leave a comment on this post before 9 pm on Friday, April 1st and I will choose the winner.