... marks a notable new entry into the still nascent Midwestern Gothic genre, evoking a sense of place as unforgettable as the cat and mouse relationship between the detective and killer in this atmospheric novel of hard rain and small towns in mid 20th century America ... dissects the character of each deeply damaged man, bringing the tension to a boiling point as the body count rises and the men risk everything to track each other down. It’s a stylish noir thriller perfect for fans of Midwestern crime and the desolate horror of the unexplained and frequently unsolved.
... evocative ... Bahr deftly moves back and forth in time; his short chapters, which feature the perspectives of different townspeople, add to the feeling that the enormity of the horror cannot be fully comprehended. The Houseboat reminded me of works by Robert Bloch strained through a more literary — but quite welcome — sensibility.
This riveting narrative is perfectly executed and begs for comparisons to William Faulkner (for the atmosphere), Cormac McCarthy (for the graphic descriptions), Eudora Welty (for the Grimm-like fable trappings), and Edgar Allan Poe (for the sense of the macabre). Gothic-tinged fiction is in revival, and debut-author Bahr will score high for this truly eloquent and haunting story. Expect a strong crossover audience, drawing from multiple genres, for what is likely to be one of the winter’s most talked-about novels.
... it is clear that this bleak tale is not going to end predictably. Told in colorful dialect with collectible small-town–isms, the novel combines poetry and unsettling horror (there's never been a graveyard scene quite like the one here). An impressive debut ... A hypnotic blend of noir and goth.
Bahr’s feel for place and people, such as the creepy Sellers, creates a moody atmosphere. That Dahl is never questioned about the details of her boyfriend’s murder, or Ness’s particular expertise fully explained, leaves certain practical elements of the story wanting. Bahr’s convincing regional dialect and spot-on depiction of a small, mid-century town are the book’s main draw. Readers will be curious to see what this talented author does next.