A former investigative journalist who once tracked an African warlord tries to piece her stale marriage back together during a summer in rural Vermont. When that fails, and her husband leaves unexpectedly for “work,” her investigative instincts turn to the owners of the house she’s renting, who seem to have disappeared. What she finds is the dark underbelly of a community savaged by opioid addiction and drug trafficking, and lives damaged by violence and trauma. As she digs deeper into the missing homeowners' lives, she begins to buckle under the responsibilities of motherhood, and grieves the loss of her career and her sense of self. This unflinching, taut literary thriller dares to expose the ways in which all forms of human violence--even the despotic violence of a distant regime--underscores who we are as a culture and as individuals.— From Rachel's Picks
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.
The Adroit Journal: "How I Wrote The Underneath" (Oct. 29, 2018)
Read Melanie Finn's essay about how the novel The Underneath came to be written.