Cover image for Deepwater
Jones, Matthew F.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 1999.
Physical Description:
280 pages ; 25 cm
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A sexy, riveting psychological thriller about a young man with an unknowable past who lands in a small town, seduces a man's wife and steals his beloved dog.

Nat Banyon is young, handsome and slightly rough around the edges. Just outside of a town called Deepwater, he runs across a minor car crash. A fiftyish man named Finch has hit a red fox and has veered off the road. Banyon offers to help and gives Finch a ride home. On the way they get to talking and Finch, already more than a little perceptive about the straits Banyon might be in, offers him a job fixing things up around his motel. Banyon accepts and later that day he meets Iris, Finch's young wife. Banyon and Iris make eye contact and in no time flat, they begin a steamy affair. In the meantime, Banyon and Finch's relationship develops into a sort of father and son relationship on the one hand, and a deeply threatening one on the other. Banyon, an orphan, begins to have nightmarish fantasies that Finch may be his real father. As Banyon becomes more and more involved with Finch's life and the Deepwater locals, he finds himself understanding less about Finch. Is he the town father or town thug? Is he a benevolent man who wants to take care of Iris and Banyon, or is he setting them up for a fall? For fear that Finch will kill them, Iris wants Banyon to kill her husband. Then they can steal his stash and escape Deepwater together. Is Banyon capable of murder? What we think we know about Nat Banyon gets thrown into question as Banyon's character becomes more and more fractured and it becomes less and less certain who in Deepwater is truly dangerous. In the meantime, there's that damn dog to worry about.

Deepwater has all one wants from a thriller: sex, violence and a dog. Matt Jones has created a caste of wonderfully complex characters and enough twists and turns to keep you flipping the pages until the very last one.

Author Notes

Matthew F. Jones was born in Boston and raised in rural upstate New York. He has written four other novels, all of them critically acclaimed, including Blind Pursuit and A Single Shot . He has, among other things, practiced law and taught writing. He lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jones and Daniel Woodrell are the leading contemporary authors of country noir, a subgenre whose roots trace back to James M. Cain's Postman Always Rings Twice. Like the hapless hobo who wandered into the wrong diner in Cain's novel, young Nat Banyon stops on a country road to help the wrong guy, and the wrong guy introduces him to the wrong girl, who happens to be the wrong guy's wife. Hired by the wrong guy to paint a woebegone motel near the woebegone town of Deepwater, Nat sweats a lot as he paints and as he falls hard for the wrong guy's wife, who just happens to have a plan about how to get rid of the wrong guy and make the right life for her and Nat. We've been down this mean street before, of course, and the fact that it's a dirt road this time doesn't make it any less recognizable. But in the hands of a writer who knows how to wring the sex out of a hot night, we're just as compelled as poor Nat to keep going in the wrong direction. Jones varies the formula just enough by giving the wrong guy a full-dress personality and forging an almost spiritual link between hunter and hunted. And then there's the wrong guy's dog, a nasty rottweiler who seems to have wandered in from a Stephen King novel for the sole purpose of reminding noir fans that black comes in more than one shade these days. Jones builds tension from two seemingly contradictory sources: the noirist's stock-in-trade, the disaster waiting to happen, and the crackling unpredictability that comes from an expert melding of genres: noir thriller crossed with psychological horror and maybe a wisp of tall (but very bent) tale. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in the remote, rural community of Deepwater, in an area of the country the author leaves vague, this eerie psychological thriller tracks the short visit of Nat Banyon, a drifter of unknown origin who stumbles into town and takes up work as a handyman at a local motel. Out of this rather conventional opening comes a story that quickly snaps in a new direction, becoming an inspired tale of suspicious strangers, a secret love affair and one man's slide into madness. The peculiarities begin soon after Banyon starts painting the motel for its owner, Herman Finch, an older man who gives Banyon the creeps by speaking enigmatically, and knowingly, of his new employee. Not only does Finch seem unusually interested in, and overly generous to, the handsome Banyon, but all the townsfolk in Deepwater seem indebted to Finch in ominous ways. Chief among them is Finch's wife, voluptuous Iris, whose guarded conduct in public belies her hardy sexual appetite, which Banyon feeds fiercely and frequently. Nerve-wracked by his powerful clandestine trysts, Banyon is also spooked by the uncanny similarities he sees between Finch and himself. Finch seems to be able to read his mind, and even more alarming, seems to have had a distinct resemblance to Banyon in photographs taken decades earlier. Could Finch actually be Banyon's father, or even Banyon himself, 30 years in the future? Such phantasmal thoughts, mingled with his lusty enchantment with Iris, send Banyon into a ruinous spiral of nightmares centering on his orphaned past and bleak visions of his future. It's a grim story, and one told exceedingly well, particularly through the characters' slangy dialogue. Jones's prose (A Single Shot; Blind Pursuit) is rich with backwoods vernacular and is deceptively spare. He creates tension with remarkable economy and intricacy in a sinister narrative that ultimately reveals itself as a powerful expression of loneliness, dangerous passions and the quest for identity. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

One stranger meets someone even stranger on an unnamed highway in the heart of Deepwater in a state not specified during a period left vague. Thus begins Jones's unsettling new novel. Nat Banyon is hired on the spot as a handyman by the enigmatic Herman Finch, ostensibly to paint Finch's motel, also named Deepwater. It turns out that Nat is indeed handy with his hands, especially when it comes to women and most especially when it comes to Iris, Finch's young, attractive, and very willing wife. We're in James M. Cain country here, and the terse dialog and steamy sex make the trip entertaining, even if routine. Before we know it, though, the novel careens off into Stephen King territory, making for a scary ride. There is a rottweiler named Dog, who is possibly the familiar of any one of the three main characters. The rivalry between the two men, both sexual and otherwise, mounts to the point where they agree to a climatic encounter in the boxing ring. With each novelÄJones's last was Blind PursuitÄthere is hope that this will be the one that breaks him out from the pack. That hope continues. For larger public libraries.ÄBob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.