The Houseboat

A Novel

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Book Description

This “impossible to forget” psychological thriller set in small town Iowa in the 1960s pits a detective struggling with his own demons against a mysterious outcast who may or may not be a serial killer (The Wall Street Journal)

James Sallis meets Mindhunter in this stylish and atmospheric noir, a midcentury heartland gothic with abounding twists and a feverish conclusion.

Local outcast Rigby Sellers lives in squalor on a dilapidated houseboat moored on the Mississippi River. With only stolen mannequins and the river to keep him company, Rigby begins to spiral from the bizarre to the threatening. As a year of drought gives way to a season of squalls, a girl is found trembling on the side of the road, claiming her boyfriend was murdered. The townspeople of nearby Oscar turn their suspicions toward Sellers.
Town sheriff Amos Fielding knows this crime is more than he can handle alone. He calls on the regional marshal up in Minnesota, and detective Edward Ness arrives in Oscar to help him investigate the homicide and defuse the growing unrest. Ness, suffering his own demons, is determined to put his past behind him and solve the case. But soon more bodies are found. As Ness and Fielding uncover disturbing facts about Sellers, and a great storm floods the Mississippi, threatening the town, Oscar is pushed to a breaking point even Ness may not be able to prevent.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Book

"Evocative . . . Bahr deftly moves back and forth in time; his short chapters, which feature the perspectives of different townspeople, add to the feeling that the enormity of the horror cannot be fully comprehended. The Houseboat reminded me of works by Robert Bloch strained through a more literary—but quite welcome sensibility." —Sarah Weinman, The New York Times Book Review

"Bahr writes like a demon, with a range from deadpan humor to living horror . . . Its haunting sequences may prove impossible to forget."—Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal

"Lyrical, bleak, gothic, haunting. The reference points to Cormac McCarthy are clear, even as Bahr develops a voice entirely his own . . . The Houseboat thrives on the level of language and atmosphere, resulting in a beautifully written debut by an author to watch." —Jason Namey, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Dane Bahr’s debut marks a notable new entry into the still nascent Midwestern Gothic genre, evoking a sense of place as unforgettable as the cat and mouse relationship between the detective and killer in this atmospheric novel of hard rain and small towns in mid 20th century America . . . A stylish noir thriller perfect for fans of Midwestern crime and the desolate horror of the unexplained and frequently unsolved." —Doreen Sheridan, Criminal Element

"Bahr’s psychologically charged debut, The Houseboat, represents a high water mark in rural noir." —Trey Strecker, Mystery Scene

"This riveting narrative is perfectly executed and begs for comparisons to William Faulkner (for the atmosphere), Cormac McCarthy (for the graphic descriptions), Eudora Welty (for the Grimmlike fable trappings), and Edgar Allan Poe (for the sense of the macabre) . . . Truly eloquent and haunting . . . Likely to be one of the winter's most talked-about novels." —Booklist (starred review)

"Bahr’s feel for place and people, such as the creepy Sellers, creates a moody atmosphere . . . Readers will be curious to see what this talented author does next." —Publishers Weekly

"An impressive debut . . . A hypnotic blend of noir and goth." —Kirkus Reviews

"The Houseboat is a new noir classic. I loved it."—Tod Goldberg, author of The Low Desert

"It’d be easy to mistake Rigby Sellers—the drifter at the center of Dane Bahr’s The Houseboat— as an invention of Cormac McCarthy or William Gay, but it’d also be a mistake. Bahr has created a literary miscreant all his own, and for all the fright Rigby conjures—and there’s plenty of it—he’s as much a foil for the supposedly civilized small Iowa town he haunts as he is a spectacle unto himself. This book is as eerie and dark as a Mississippi river slough, and just as rank. You don’t want to miss it." —Peter Geye, author of Northernmost

The Houseboat will unsettle you, scare you, and break your heart. It’s grimly authentic, bleak and beautiful. Its people wear the faces we see in our mirrors, and the ones we glimpse in our most terrifying dreams. It's a distinctly American gothic mystery—perfect reading for the Lovecraftian times we are living in.” —Molly Gloss, author of The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses

"Dane Bahr has written a classic mystery that propels his readers through the avenues, back roads, and waterways of a small town on a dire mission to sort through gossip and find the truth. Yet along the way, he also creeps us out, pushes our buttons, challenges our moral limits, and subverts our expectations in all the best ways, right up to the very last page. A subtle and smartly paced psychological page-turner with characters you love for their flaws." —Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

"With scenes as propulsive as any found in True Detective and dialogue that could hold its own against the novels of Cormac McCarthy or Donald Ray Pollock, Dane Bahr's debut, The Houseboat, is truly a thing of beauty! Enticing the reader from the go, with a clear, clever, and ultimately haunting writing style, Bahr delivers on every page.” —Urban Waite, author of Sometimes the Wolf

“Dane Bahr has an unteachable knack to make the natural world a character. And once the book's ecosystems spring to vibrant life, there is a hell of a page-turner floating on top." —Joshua Mohr, author of Model Citizen

"The Houseboat is an unruly, scarred and dusk-haunted book. In Bahr's stunning, transcendent descent into the old guilt of our collective humanity, something utterly unique awakens." —Shann Ray, author of Atomic Theory 7

The Houseboat is as taut and chilling as it is vivid and self-assured. Bahr delivers a gritty, page-turning debut not to be missed." —Jonathan Evison, author of Legends of the North Cascades

The Houseboat is a little bit Eudora Welty, a splash of Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of originality. Dane Bahr levels a landscapist’s eye on 1960 Iowa and a gothic one on the human currents circulating in its cornfields, woods, and waterways. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of the bucolic and the horrifying.” —Glen Chamberlin, author of Conjugations of the Verb to Be

The Houseboat is a worthy addition to the canon of country noir. Bahr's novel is eerie, dark, and disturbing in the best possible way.” —Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women