Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Sean Crisden
Length: 5 hours, 44 minutes
Sawyer Wiseman left his job as a big city cop in Chicago and has returned to his hometown of Lancaster Falls, PA. It is a small town, full of small town drama, including a corrupt mayor and a useless police chief. But Sawyer needs the comfort of his family and his familiar surroundings after things went bad in Chicago. He is determined to do what is best for his community, including rooting out some of the local corruption.
Chris Lassiter is a best-selling horror author who has come to Lancaster Falls looking for inspiration to break his writer’s block. Chris has deadlines looming and he just can’t make the words come. When he stumbles upon some unearthed bones at the old Iron Lake reservoir, the creepy finding is just enough to start fueling Chris’ imagination. He can’t help but be intrigued by the case, particularly when rumors surface it may be the body of a missing local man.
As Sawyer and Chris’ paths continue to cross, they act on their attraction for one another with a hot hookup. Sawyer doesn’t think it can be more, but he also can’t stop thinking about Chris. Sawyer never thought he could have someone be there for him as a source of support and comfort, but Chris is right there as Sawyer attempts to unravel the complicated case. Part of him hopes the body is from the missing man, looking for closure on a case that has haunted the town. But the rest of him hates that learning the truth could leave local families devastated. Alongside the pressure of the case are other problems in town, including mysterious vandalism, as well as a domestic abuse situation that is escalating ever higher. Now, even as Chris begins to find his way with his writing, he is determined to be there for Sawyer as he continues to unravel the mysteries of what is happening at Iron Lake.
What Lies Beneath is the first book in R.J. Scott’s Lancaster Falls trilogy and this suspense thriller drew me in right away and kept me hooked throughout the story. This series first got my attention when Kenna reviewed the books here, so I was eager to grab it when I saw the stories coming out in audio, and I am so glad I did. I could barely stop listening, eager to uncover more of the mysteries of Iron Lake.
This story is a mystery/thriller, but its foundation is more the sense of foreboding than hard core suspense. R.J. Scott really builds the tension here with the sense of some underlying evil lurking in Iron Lake. It is a reservoir built years ago when part of the old town was intentionally flooded and buried underwater. So there is something somewhat sinister feeling about the idea of this whole world under the dark and murky water, particularly when the heat wave leads to the water receding and the discovery of the bones. The atmosphere is amplified through Chris, who is a horror writer and who views the goings on through his own macabre lens. Scott does such a great job putting us into Chris’ mind in his POV chapters. He has such an interesting way of looking at the world, always questioning and letting his mind travel in unusual directions. He encounters someone, and suddenly his mind spins an elaborate “what if” story about them. He is the perfect guide to look at this mystery as he is fascinated by the findings that others find horrifying. It also makes him a great counterbalance for Sawyer, who looks at the whole situation from the pragmatic cop’s eye, rather than Chris’ more fanciful viewpoint. The pair end up making a really interesting couple. They are sexy and have plenty of heat, but also are so supportive of one another, and Scott does a great job developing their bond over the course of the story.
This book starts with the main mystery of the bones under the bridge at Iron Lake, but it expands as the story continues and more elements come into play. There are corrupt officials and strange vandalism (plus some more surprises) that all seem part of the larger puzzle, but just how it all fits together isn’t clear at this point. This book does wrap up some key points, specifically whether the bones found belong to the missing Casey Maguire. But this is definitely a closely tied trilogy and there are many questions still unresolved that will play out over the next two books. I felt that the pacing worked well here. There is enough closure in both the mystery end and in terms of the relationship to feel like this story has a solid resolution, but it is also clear there are a lot of questions about what is going on in Lancaster Falls still to be explored. The final two books feature different couples, so I think it will be interesting to see how Scott continues the overarching storyline with different central characters. But after you start this one, you are definitely going to want to read this whole trilogy, which fortunately is already out in both audio and book form.
I listened to his one in audio with narrator Sean Crisden. I think overall Crisden does a nice job and the narration was smooth and easy to enjoy. Crisden doesn’t have a huge range in terms of character voices, but there was enough differentiation to easily distinguish characters from one another. Sawyer and Chris have distinctly different voices that fit them well. Crisden uses each character’s voice for the overall narration of their POV chapters, not just for their dialog, which is a style I enjoy. It really helped me to feel in each of their heads, which works particularly well here as their inner voices are so different from each other. I did find Sawyer’s brother’s voice to be somewhat nasally and whiny sounding, to the point it was a little distracting. Given they are both supposed to be big men who look similar, I would have expected the voices to be a closer match. Crisden also speaks a little more rapidly than most narrators, enough so that at one point I checked to confirm I was listening at regular speed. His words often flow together as he speaks. I think it actually worked reasonably well, particularly for Sawyer, as the style fits his character, but I do think a little clearer diction would have helped in some parts. But overall, I enjoyed the narration and think it worked well for the book.
I ended up really enjoying this story and getting totally caught up in the mystery and the relationship. Within minutes of finishing it, I was off looking for books 2 and 3. I really can’t wait to dig into the next two books and can definitely recommend this one.