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“A gritty, emotionally immersive and addictive journey forcing the reader to confront the best and the worst of the human experience. Ghost River plunges us across the membrane separating the natural and supernatural psychic consciousness. This is Jon Coon’s best work—a provocative and disruptive journey shrouded in mystery, heroism, and suspense from the start and on the level of the best works from the likes of Clancy, Christie, Fleming, and Daniel Woodrell.”

—Dr. Drew Richardson, CEO and president,

Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI),

the world’s largest dive training agency with

more than 25 million divers certified

“Jon has captured the essence of a public safety diver while weaving a gripping story. The way he builds a tapestry of characters and gives Gabe an ability all public safety divers wished they had keeps you wanting more, page after page. If you are a diver or someone who would like a book you can’t put down, Ghost River is the book for you.”

—Sean Harrison,

senior vice president, Scuba Diving International (SDI),

Technical Diving International (TDI),

Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI)

“Jon has a way of taking underwater criminal investigations with all the dangers, challenges, as well as the glory to a level that takes the reader on a suspenseful, heart-pounding adventure . . . You’re about to get a glimpse of the life of a true diving professional, an underwater criminal investigator. Enjoy the ride!”

—Michael Berry, first sergeant/

dive team coordinator, Virginia State Police

“Ghost River is an intense, fast-paced thriller, taking the reader into the dark and dangerous world of the underwater criminal investigator. But this investigator has an extraordinary, if terrifying, gift—the drowned corpses he finds tell him their grisly stories and they lead him to a trail of corruption and murder. Jon Coon’s intimate knowledge of this specialist world makes every page ring true and lends a compelling authenticity to an extraordinary and gripping tale.”

—Mark Caney,

industry relations and training executive,

PADI Worldwide, and author of

Dolphin Way: Rise of the Guardians

“Ghost River is a thought-provoking thriller, balancing heart-pounding action with the personal and spiritual journey of police diver Gabe Jones. Gabe is a flawed yet devout man whose gift of speaking to the dead gives him a professional edge at the expense of his relationships with the living. A former commercial oil field diver and dive safety officer for NASA, author Jon Coon uses his diving expertise to immerse the reader in a complex tale as dark and dangerous as the river that gives the book its name.”

—Jaden Terrell,

internationally published author

of the Jared McKean private detective series

and past president of the Southeast chapter of

Mystery Writers of America

Praise for Thief of the Deep:

“With Thief of the Deep, Jon Coon has established himself as one of America’s top writers of modern sea adventure. A great tale with suspense and romance at every turn.”

—Clive Cussler

“The best diving fiction I’ve read in years . . . Hopefully there’s more to come . . . I’m waiting.”

—AquaCORPS journal

“A complex plot involving underwater raiders . . . and a state of the art submarine . . . the drama is tense.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Jon Coon knows his diving. He tells a rattling good yarn . . . a thoroughly good read.”

—Sport Diver magazine

Other books by Jon Coon

Thief of the Deep


Iron Herring

An imprint of Iron Stream Media

100 Missionary Ridge

Birmingham, AL 35242

© 2019 by Jon Coon

All rights reserved. First printing 2019.

Printed in the United States of America

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Characters, institutions, organizations, ghosts, and bridges in this work are either the product of the author’s worst nightmare, or, if real, used fictitiously without any intent to describe their actual conduct, essence, or lack thereof. Iron Stream Media serves its authors as they express their views, which may not express the views of the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been filed.

ISBN-13: 978-1-56309-325-8

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-56309-326-5

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Until quite recently the kinds of diving described in this book—bridge inspections, evidence searches and preservation, body recovery, and rescue diving—had the highest fatality rate of any specialized group of divers. Exceeding even that of cave diving and exploration.

This work is dedicated to the exclusive group of instructors who have dedicated their lives to providing sane and safe training to that community, thereby saving many lives.

Also, to my wonderful wife Rachel, who with her patience, kindness, and love has saved my life or at least my sanity more times than I can count.

A Diver’s Prayer

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Have mercy on me,

A wretched sinner.

In the name of Your Son,

Who bound the wave and calmed the sea,

Please don’t add my name

To the list of those many brave divers who lie asleep

In the deep.

At least not today.




Chattahoochee River Interstate Bridge, Florida Panhandle February, cold and windy

The first things Gabe Jones felt as he submerged were the lower body squeeze of the Viking dry suit and the chill. He added air from the suit’s chest valve until he was comfortable. Then he paused for his pre-dive prayer, a lifetime habit, and pulled his way down the buoy line. He adjusted the airflow to the Aga full-face dive mask as he descended.

The first few feet of tannic brown river water were full of debris and trash, reducing visibility to mere inches. Gabe took two slow, deep breaths, forcing himself to relax, cleared his ears by putting his tongue on the roof of his mouth and swallowing hard, and thought, Charlie, why?

As he descended the current increased. Gabe wrapped a leg around the line to steady himself and continued his drop. Soon he was fighting to hang onto the buoy line with both hands. The current grabbed his umbilical—the air hose, communications wire, and safety line bundle that was his lifeline to the surface. The umbilical’s drag was nearly enough

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