Local outcast Rigby Sellers lives in squalor on a dilapidated houseboat moored on the Mississippi River. With only stolen manikins and the river to keep him company, Rigby begins to spiral from the bizarre to the threatening. As a year of drought gives way to a season of squalls, a girl is found trembling on the side of the road, claiming her boyfriend was murdered. The nearby town of Oscar turns their suspicions toward Sellers. Local Sheriff Amos Fielding calls on a regional Marshall up in Minnesota, detective Edward Ness, to help him investigate the homicide and defuse the growing unrest.
... 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.