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Clarion Rating: 5 out of 5
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, NetGalley.com 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, NetGalley.com 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, NetGalley.com Review
“Thrilling plot full of twists and turns...” Erinne Carey, NetGalley.com Review
“This is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat…” Judith Baxter, NetGalley.com Review