Reviews of My Books


Clarion Review  ★★★★                                                       GENERAL FICTION

The Curious Case of Seaman Garber

B. K. Mayo

Fir Valley Press (20220

(258 pp)


The Curious Case of Seaman Garber is a reflective novel in which a thoughtful boy works to understand a reclusive veteran’s story.

The discovery of a dead Vietnam veteran hastens a boy’s maturation in B. K. Mayo’s engrossing novel The Curious Case of Seaman Garber, which is about growing up through one’s compassion for a stranger.

Seth spends his summers in Oregon shooting at cans, exploring the outdoors, and picking cherries. These meanderings are accomplished alongside his friend, Collin, whose harsher home circumstances are hinted at. Their long days aren’t all idyllic: they wind up finding a man’s body floating in an abandoned reservoir. Though they’re shaken by their discovery, they’re also drawn toward the ensuing investigation, and Seth observes its forensic details from a distance.

It is revealed that the deceased was Henry, a local fisherman and a veteran about whom little is known. Seth searches for Henry’s missing dog, and he expresses concern about what will happen to Henry’s remains. He ends up urging his father to intervene and ensure a proper burial, but he still can’t stop thinking about Henry’s life.

Seth, who is both precocious and cautious, is a boy of strong convictions. He treats others with respect, and his natural curiosity propels the story’s stages—each of which shows him remaining true to his honest nature. His empathy is extraordinary.

Seth’s father is also a grounding presence in the book: he both informs and supports his son, as does Seth’s grandmother. In contrast, Seth’s mother delivers a bevy of anxious warnings. The cast’s mood changes through the story’s shifting events, as people experience both everyday delights and apprehension and fear.

The book’s chapters are brief and taut. Their momentum builds as their focus on what happened to Henry tightens.  But they also include diversions, as with a consideration of what PTSD is, and how it can last across decades. Still, an affecting secondary story line is drawn out of the lasting effects of war in particular: the prevalence, and  misunderstood nature, of PTSD directs it.

But the novel also includes an unexpected bequest and large revelations concerning Henry’s connections to people who lived nearby. These are handled via an excessively convenient confession, in which facts are doled out in an abrupt, emotional way to drive home messages about the tragedies of postwar traumas. Late in the book, information about Henry’s war experiences is also introduced, with the aim of interjecting hope—and a message about the importance of bravery.

The Curious Case of Seaman Garber is a reflective novel in which a thoughtful boy works to understand a reclusive veteran’s story.

KAREN RIGBY (May 27, 2022




Clarion Review: 5 out of 5 Stars

Fir Valley Press (2019)


In this coming-of-age crime novel, suspense and tension run high, and chapters often end on cliffhangers.


In B.K. Mayo’s The Water Tower Club, true-to-life characters face the dark side of their small town with fear and conviction.

Darryl Coombs is summoned back to Grotin, Kansas to help his sister, Libby, get out of jail. Libby has been accused of stabbing Darryl’s childhood enemy, Bobby Hobson. Figuring out why may help Darryl let go of his sad history.

Since moving to San Antonio ten years ago, Darryl has buried his past, which was defined by abandonment, humiliation, and a needy mom. He lives in the present, working as an accountant and enjoying a carefree love life. Back in Grotin, he is forced to confront the reasons he left.

Darryl narrates, and the text reads like a reluctant confession. He makes wide use of metaphors—imagining his story, more than analyzing it. Still, the prose is economical. Libby and Darryl’s girlfriend both resist talking, particularly about their pasts, making what they don’t say as relevant as what they do. Darryl’s laborious attempts to overcome the silence around him echo in his attempts to piece together Libby’s case.

The setting captures the story’s mood. In the heat of the summer, wilting flowers outside of Darryl’s motel show Grotin’s desolate state and mimic Darryl’s own fatigue. The infamous town water tower, which is the site of a painful hazing memory, symbolizes the highs and lows of what’s at stake. While the mystery of the stabbing propels the text forward, the progression itself is not mysterious: Darryl is on a mission of intent.

Beginning with the moment Darryl’s mother calls him home, his memories come flooding back. As he meets former acquaintances and starts his detective tasks, the story moves at a one step forward, two steps back pace. Darryl plays whack-a-mole with clues; suspense and tension are high, and chapters often end on cliffhangers.

Alternating between the present and the past, the book situates the central crime in the context of bigger conflicts. Its themes, including environmental and sex crises, are timely and prescient. The past and present converge in a violent climax that leaves one end tantalizingly loose.

The Water Tower Club is both a crime novel and an adult coming-of-age story in which the future is built out of the lessons of the past.

Reviewed by Mari Carlson

March 20, 2019

More Praise for The Water Tower Club

“In The Water Tower Club, BK Mayo skillfully intertwines sleuthing and mystery with a good deal of self-reflection on the impact of unexamined memories and secrets…that haunt the soul…I highly recommend The Water Tower Club—a clever and well thought out whodunit…” Jean Sheldon, author of the Nic & Nora Mystery series

“Mayo is a powerful writer and delivers with this gritty, sorrowful story. It reminded me somewhat of Dennis Lehane's early novels...Very good read.” Pamela Johnson, Review

“The Water Tower Club is full of snappy prose that captures the imagination, playing upon the heartstrings of emotion as deftly as a virtuoso violinist, conjuring bittersweet nostalgia, heavy regret, flickering uncertainty. Darryl has a philosopher's soul, and his problems, worries, and fears are ones we can all relate to- past regrets, family pressures, the desire to bury our hurts and wounds, a longing to find who we really are. I stayed up late reading, pulled deep into this world, eager to unravel the mysteries within, especially that of the title. This is a book you're going to want to read!” J. Aislynn d'Merricksson, San Francisco Book Review
“Massively engaging thriller, the story kept me gripped and reading well into the night. Well written and will look forward to more from this author.” Kendal Wilkie, Review
“Not only a fast-paced…mystery, The Water Tower Club is also an examination of just how sordid small-town politics can be. This captivating read will hold you riveted all the way through the conclusion.” Jo Niederhoff, Manhattan Book Review
“BK Mayo's new book is another little masterpiece of mystery and character…Mayo's stories always grow from his characters, who are deftly realized with memorable and recognizable detail…Once again, as he did in Tamara's Child, Mayo examines the complications that lurk beneath the surface and haunt the lives of very ordinary people.”Michael Hall, Review
“Thrilling plot full of twists and turns...” Erinne Carey, Review
“This is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat…” Judith Baxter, Review