The Underneath

The Underneath

by Melanie Finn

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Overview

"A musk of sex and menace soaks three narrative strands, expertly braided... Finn writes with a phrasing flare on par with Lauren Goff’s." —Kirkus Reviews, starred
With the assurance and grace of her acclaimed novel The Gloaming—which earned her comparisons to Patricia Highsmith—Melanie Finn returns with a precisely layered and tense new literary thriller.

The Underneath follows Kay Ward, a former journalist struggling with the constraints of motherhood. Along with her husband and two children, she rents a quaint Vermont farmhouse for the summer. The idea is to disconnect from their work-based lifestyle—that had her doggedly pursuing a genocidal leader of child soldiers known as General Christmas, even through Kay's pregnancy and the birth of their second child—in an effort to repair their shaky marriage.

It isn't long before Kay's husband is called away and she discovers a mysterious crawlspace in the rental with unsettling writing etched into the wall. Alongside some of the house's other curiosities and local sleuthing, Kay is led to believe that something terrible may have happened to the home's owners.

Kay's investigation leads her to a local logger, Ben Comeau, a man beset with his own complicated and violent past. A product of the foster system and life-long resident of the Northeast Kingdom, Ben struggles to overcome his situation, and to help an abused child whose addict mother is too incapacitated to care about the boy's plight.

The Underneath is an intelligent and considerate exploration of violence—both personal and social—and whether violence may ever be justified.

"Finn does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing, and the tension in the narrative always comes across as organic, never manipulative. The Underneath is an excellent thriller." —Michael Schaub, Star Tribune

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

06/11/2018
Finn’s tense and atmospheric novel (following The Gloaming) flashes back and forth between two periods in the life of journalist Kay Ward. Years ago, in her third trimester of pregnancy, Kay interviewed General Christmas of Uganda, a singularly cruel figure who had amassed an army of child soldiers. Kay jumped at the opportunity despite the reservations of her husband, Michael. Years later, her encounter with evil has changed her—for instance, she sometimes has the urge to smash in Michael’s head with a hammer. Kay and Michael end up in rural, drug-addled Vermont, where their children live an idyllic life with no phone or internet service. Kay, meanwhile, finds a creepy crawl space in their rented house and clues that something sinister may have befallen the family that owns it. Kay’s growing obsession with her absent landlords sets her down a path that finds her neglecting her children, drinking heavily, and coming dangerously close to the people who hold the secret of the home’s owners. . Though the flashbacks to Kay’s journalism career sometimes feel unnecessary and there are too many narrative threads, Finn’s dark and gripping meditation depicts how violence can warp a person’s character, and whether, having experienced it, there is any coming back. (May)

From the Publisher

"Finn does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing, and the tension in the narrative always comes across as organic, never manipulative. The Underneath is an excellent thriller, and Finn has a gift for prose that's hard-boiled but not clichéd. Perhaps most important, her characters are true to life... There's much to admire about The Underneath, and Finn's third novel proves that she's deeply original, a writer who's not content with rehashing old tropes that have become overly familiar in some thrillers."
—Michael Schaub, Star Tribune

"A musk of sex and menace soaks three narrative strands, expertly braided... Finn writes with a phrasing flare on par with Lauren Goff’s... Her curiosity and dread drive the novel and move her toward a terrifying denouement... Finn puts her readers on the knife’s edge."
Kirkus Reviews, starred

The Underneath delves into the dark side of the Northeast Kingdom."
—Mitch Wertlieb, Vermont Public Radio

"The follow up to Finn's smash hit, The Gloaming, The Underneath is a thriller you probably shouldn't read if you live, uh, alone. Kay Ward, a former war journalist, attempts to settle into a calmer life out in the wilds of Vermont. But when her husband is called away on business and she discovers a crawl space underneath their home, Kay becomes worried that something, something horrible, happened to the previous tenants."
Bustle, '13 Books From Indie Publishers To Look Forward To In 2018'

"[The Underneath] offers glimpses of redemption, hope, and at every turn, natural beauty... a gripping, detailed, satisfying read, a hard, unsparing look at human nature."
sinkhole mag

"The Underneath is an extraordinary and challenging book, and one that I could not put down."
—Promoting Crime Fiction

"Unputdownable."
—Seven Days

"Finn has written a fine piece of fiction. It will make you concerned, worried, and anxious, but we read at least in part to escape our everyday world. Once you step into Finn's Northeast Kingdom, a return trip to your daily and predictable life looks pretty attractive. The tension upon re-opening this book each time is one of the beauties of reading, so read Finn and enjoy."
—Bennington Banner

"Filled with the terror of everyday violence, this is a mystery in the making. It’s filled with bits and pieces of the lives of a variety of characters, all thrown together in this stew of a story. From journalistic realities to motherhood and the day-to-dayness of life, we’re led on a journey into the life of Kay Ward who’s soon to learn that the house she is calling home may have had a violent past that can’t be ignored. But is it gone?"
—Linda at Auntie's Books, Spokane, WA

"The minute you open this book, you will be sucked into a liminal space, one that is usually only accessible in the small dark hours of the morning, when the world is asleep and the only light comes from the television shining bluish on the wall. It opens with Kay Ward: increasingly estranged from her husband and children and on the edge of something, she doesn't know what. When she discovers a crawlspace in the isolated farmhouse her family is renting, she keeps it to herself. It's a secret she nurses until she decides to investigate, but her questions have consequences and propel her into the path of people she'd be better off without. Finn's newest is strange and compelling, a haunting reminder that it's not just the violence on the surface we need fear, it's what's underneath."
—Lauren Peugh at Powell's Books, Portland, OR

"Finn’s tense and atmospheric novel (following The Gloaming) flashes back and forth between two periods in the life of journalist Kay Ward... Finn’s dark and gripping meditation depicts how violence can warp a person’s character, and whether, having experienced it, there is any coming back."
Publishers Weekly

"Taking its cue from Finn’s own preoccupations with motherhood and social ills, The Underneath deals with tragedy and its rippling aftermath, and excavates the hows and whys of the pain we inflict on each other... Finn vividly captures the ugliness of opioid addiction and its profound impact on children."
—Valley News

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2018-06-18
A musk of sex and menace soaks three narrative strands, expertly braided.This taut, harrowing novel opens in italics and in the voice of Kay Norton, a cynical white journalist in Uganda having desultory sex and tracking the atrocities of a warlord called General Christmas: "Whatever we printed simply fed his hunger for publicity. He had no insights, he had no grand plan, no sense of justice. He was just another asshole with a gun." But unlike Finn's tour de force The Gloaming (2016), the bulk of this book lies outside Africa, unspooling in picturesque rural Vermont, where two desperate people are mired: Ben Comeau, a logger/heroin dealer, and Kay, now Kay Ward, ambivalent mother of two certain she smells her husband's infidelity, imagining his lover "waiting for him in Amsterdam or Dublin, wherever his flight hubbed through. She was issuing a flurry of ardent texts. She was shaving her legs." Kay has her own distractions, registering Ben: "For she felt the smile, where he aimed it, way down low." But Kay is more intent on her absent landlord, Frank Wilson, and the creepy totems of violence surrounding her. Finn writes with a phrasing flare on par with Lauren Goff's: a junkie rests "in the easy hammock of her high"; a mute boy's unexpected laugh blossoms into "a foreign sound, like a migrant bird blown off course." The author is excellent at contrasting the snug nature of beauty and horror—the pretty nails of a social worker point out the unspeakable in a child abuse document—even as Finn mines her characters for motives. Kay considers asking General Christmas "about his influences—Marx, Castro, Donald Trump?" Her curiosity and dread drive the novel and move her toward a terrifying denouement. She is at the mercy of a conflicted man who "feels the hissing pleasure of spite: to hurt for hurting's sake." Finn puts her readers on the knife's edge.A reckless woman in a spiky story of violence flirts with the possibility of redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781937512699
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 308
Sales rank: 1,239,064
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

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