Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What we're reading: Historical mystery

I have read and immensely enjoyed all of Kate Morton's books (The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours), and The Lake House is no exception; but you have to be in a certain mood to read them.

There are two things about them that can either please or frustrate: She goes into an incredible amount of detail, painting word pictures of such depth and color that you can smell the lavender and feel the sparkle of sun on your skin, which is a good thing…if you have the patience to sit back and enjoy it. And she draws out the mystery in each book to practically the last page, by jumping again and again from past to present to past just at the moment when you think, Finally! I'm going to find out something significant! which again, makes the payoff even better, IF you are willing to wait for it.

This one takes place mostly in Cornwall (a bonus for me, as I love anything set in that magical land). The story from the 1930s is of a young girl and burgeoning writer, Alice Edevane. One idyllic summer, Alice's only brother, one-year-old Theo, disappears during the family's elaborate annual Midsummer's Eve party, and his tragic loss shatters the family dynamic, sending them off on their own paths, some never to reunite.

The story in the present day is of a detective on the London police force who is escaping a recent disgrace by visiting her grandfather in Cornwall. She is curious about the old, neglected estate she comes upon during one of her morning runs, and when she discovers that the disappearance of young Theo has never been solved, she decides that bringing this cold case to a conclusion will nicely distract her from the problems that exiled her to Cornwall. But Alice, now an elderly and successful mystery writer, isn't willing to let Sadie Sparrow delve into a past that Alice is afraid will reveal secrets from which the remainder of her family won't recover.

I liked this story a lot, but I must admit that this time I grew weary of Morton's technique of drawing things out by the time the payoff finally yielded itself. Also, the ending was a little too perfect--I was simultaneously immensely satisfied and completely skeptical of its probability. So, four stars instead of five. But still, a winner.

Editor's note: In addition to offering this as a hardcover in the New Books section, Burbank Public Library carries it as an audio book and as an e-book.

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