This week’s mystery is the first book I’ve read by Australian author Kate Morton and I really enjoyed it once I got used to the way it weaved back and forth between different times in the lives of the characters. The Lake House shouldn’t be confused with the romantic, time-shifting movie of the same name; nor, once you realize it at first has some similarities with the kidnapping and death of the Lindbergh baby, should you think it will just be a same old thing with a foregone conclusion — this book kept surprising me right up to the end.
The story begins in Cornwall, England, in 1933. A girl we later come to know as Alice Edevane is behaving strangely in a wooded area on the family’s summer estate, The Lake House, in the middle of a dark, stormy night burying some mysterious package that is clearly burdening her. As the story unfolds and we learn more of Alice, we see her as part of a large, seemingly carefree family. Backstory is filled in about her parents’ meeting — Eleanor and the dashing young student Anthony Edevane — and their courtship in 1911, preparations for a marvellous party being hosted at the Lake House, complete with fireworks, in the summer of 1933, and we meet Alice again as the prolific author of mystery stories in 2003.
It was in the summer of 1933 that Alice had a romantic crush on a handsome young worker on the land named Ben Munro, her father spent much time locked away in his attic study working on an important project, and, on the evening of June 23rd, Mr. Llewellyn, a family friend and painter, died in the woods as the fireworks exploded over the night sky, and Alice’s little brother, Theo, disappeared from his crib.
Despite a thorough and exhaustive investigation, no trace of Theo was ever found. The Lake House was closed up and abandoned. Years later, Alice and her sister Deborah begin to share information and piece together the fact of their father’s post traumatic stress disorder from the Great War that caused their mother to lock him in the attic workshop when he felt violent spells coming on. A young detective, Sarah Sparrow, lying low to avoid a scandal caused by her leaking to a reporter her doubts about the conclusion of a recent case, visits her grandfather in Cornwall, discovers the abandoned Lake House, and begins to investigate the cold case of Theo’s mysterious loss. A letter she sends to the reclusive Alice, brings her back to the home of her seeming idyllic childhood to unravel the mystery of what really happened that tragic June night in 1933.
This is a many layered story that is exquisitely told as Morton reveals hidden clues, lost motives, secret relationships, and finally, the truth. There were many surprises as the past is slowly revealed, eventually assuaging Alice’s belief that she was responsible for her brother’s disappearance and that things sometimes do work out for the best. While I found it a bit confusing at first with the leaps to the different time periods, I soon caught on to Morton’s style and the method in her madness, as it were, and thoroughly enjoyed all the twists and turns as the characters developed. When I turn the last page and am sorry the novel is over, you know it was a terrific book. I will definitely be reading more novels by Kate Morton. * * * * *
To read the opening paragraph and a teaser follow this link.
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