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A tale of suppressed secrets, fractured families … and murder

When a mangled car is pulled from the river, containing bloodstains and a gun, the sense of safety is shattered in Tessa’s Californian hometown. Tessa, who works at the river conservancy, thinks she saw a girl out on the riverbank – but Tessa’s memory is failing and could this be the start of something more serious?

Tessa’s friend and co-worker, Claire Barrett, is worried – about the car and the gun, but also about Tessa. With Tessa’s attorney husband preoccupied with a big case and in denial about his wife’s memory issues, Claire knows that it’ll be up to her to work out what’s going on. When a body turns up and she discovers the identity of the gun’s owner – someone disturbingly close to home – Claire is determined to uncover the truth . . . whatever it takes.

Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of more than a dozen novels, spent some time recently with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, THE RIVER BELOW:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

What drives this book for me is the friendship between Claire, the by-the-book environmental scientist, and Tessa, the warm, spontaneous wife of a successful attorney. The questions I asked myself as I wrote were these. What do you say when your best friend begins forgetting things? What do you do when she starts seeing a woman who isn’t there? I hope readers appreciate the friendship and what Claire is willing to do to save her friend–and I hope the river and what happens there keeps readers turning pages.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

Domestic thrillers intrigue me. My first novel (Intern), set in the Mendocino, California area, is one, and I wanted to set this one on the San Joaquin River, in my part of California.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I spent many days and hours at the river, driving and walking its banks, photographing it in every season. During the almost three years I wrote the book, I felt part of the river and part of the story. What began as a thriller about a car containing bloodstains and a gun being pulled from the San Joaquin River became, for me, an exploration of love, marriage, and the power of friendship, even when it fails to heal.


Bonnie Hearn Hill is the author of more than a dozen novels. The River Below is set in what she calls “the forgotten California,” on the San Joaquin River, just blocks from where she lives. A national conference speaker, she co-hosts a monthly book segment for a local news station’s morning show.

To learn more about Bonnie and her work, please visit her website.



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