cover image The Underneath

The Underneath

Melanie Finn. Two Dollar Radio (PGW, dist.), $26 (308p) ISBN 978-1-937512-69-9

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)