Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer by Wesley Southard

The IndieMuse Review

You’ll never go in the water again!

Like haunted houses, deep-sea horror is a sub-genre that a lot of horror writers seem to flirt with at some point in their career. A lot of great authors have made it their entire career and, at this point, it feels like one of those subjects where there is little fresh ground to tread.

Enter Wesley Southard…

Melissa has decided that a vacation with sun, sea and sand is just what is needed to mend her broken relationship with her abusive boyfriend, Hoyt. With her twelve-year-old son, Patrick, in tow, the trio set off on a week-long stay in Florida where she hopes to forget her troubles and fix her family. It is not long until Hoyt devolves into his pattern of abuse and, after taking his anger out on Patrick and Melissa, a terrible accident unwittingly unleashes a much greater evil.

Haunted by terrible visions and stalked by a nightmarish creature that declares itself a god, Melissa finds herself a target of an unspeakable evil, aeons old and with a desire to destroy mankind, starting with her and her family. Will Melissa submit to these unfathomably ancient forces, or is she done being a victim?

Fans of Steve Alten or Hunter Shea will find a lot to love here. Mixing aquatic monster mayhem with Greek mythology to create something simultaneously familiar but with a fun twist, if you’re in this for the man versus nature showdown, then you’ll get that in spades. The action, once it gets going, is inventive, gory, and massive in scale.

As you may expect from Wesley Southard, Cruel Summer isn’t satisfied with just being a big fun creature feature and his penchant for the weird, bordering on bizarro is present, albeit far more restrained than his previous books. Some set pieces have a surreal, nightmarish quality to them, and it gives the whole book a sense of unpredictability. The grand finale is especially chaotic and it works incredibly well, delivering unique twists on well-worn tropes within the popular deep-sea horror genre.

A big reason this works as well as it does is that the big action set pieces and bigger body count are all grounded in a very personal tale of a mother navigating an abusive relationship whilst trying to care for her son. Melissa is a complex and sympathetic lead, full of strength and resilience, yet seemingly powerless to end a cycle of poor decisions. The bond between her and Patrick is the heart of the book, and you find yourself desperately wanting both to make it out of the book unscathed so that they can begin to take steps to mend their fractured relationship.

Deftly mixing a classic gut-munching creature feature with a serious, often painfully real family drama, all told with the trademark Wesley Southard skew, Cruel Summer is a big, bold horror extravaganza with heart. Do not read before you go swimming!


Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

Curation Results: Cruel Summer


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2 reviews for Cruel Summer by Wesley Southard

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  1. Reena Gaulke  

    I absolutely loved this book! I’m looking forward to reading more from the author. Highly recommended!

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  2. Madelaine Bastarache  

    I love strong characters and the storyline was exciting and intriguing. I loved it and love this author.

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