The Lake House, by Kate Morton (2015)

The Lake HouseAustralian novelist Kate Morton returns to the Cornish coast as the moody setting for this time-shifting mystery about a toddler apparently kidnapped in 1933. The Lake House has remained empty since the tragedy befell the Edevane family. Seventy years later, Detective constable Sadie Sparrow stumbles across the dilapidated property while visiting her grandfather Bertie, who recently moved there after Sadie’s grandmother Ruth passed away. Sadie is taking a leave while her police department investigates a media leak about her investigation into the disappearance of the mother of another toddler. Sadie resists the case’s conclusion that the mother abandoned her child, struggling with her own long-ago history as a pregnant teen. Holed up in Cornwall, Sadie redirects her anxiety about her future into an investigation into the cold case of Theo Edevane’s disappearance at the long-ago Midsummer’s Eve party hosted by Eleanor and Anthony Edevane, a veteran of the Great War tormented by the experience. The story shifts back and forth in time between 2003, 1933, and 1911, when Eleanor was herself a girl at the Lake House. Everyone in every decade has secrets, and as Sadie finds clues in 2003, Morton unveils a bit more truth, and misunderstandings, from the earlier time. Not everyone will enjoy the back-and-forth delivery, but I found it fascinating. Morton thoroughly develops sympathetic characters in both Sadie and Eleanor, though I struggled with Alice’s transformation from Theo’s rebellious and romantic sister into the rigid and emotionally controlled octogenarian author who has been carrying the guilt of what she knows of Theo’s disappearance. A perspicacious librarian plays a small but important role in helping Sadie find answers to the decades-old mystery. I absolutely loved an earlier book by Morton, The Forgotten Garden. This one comes close, but just misses the mark due to the improbable ending. I was engaged throughout, though it’s a lengthy tome (my e-edition is 430 pages). Morton keeps setting the reader up for a possible conclusion and then a fact emerges that causes you to toss it aside and try again, so it was a lot of fun to read. I liked the mystery’s resolution but the neatly wrapped-up ending was a big disappointment. Editor, you need to be firmer with your authors! Despite this, it’s a compelling and well-written novel that will leave you with lifelike “memories” of an empty house on a windswept coast, the cry of a child just barely discernible.
My thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, for the e-galley provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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