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Tuesday 4 May 2021

‘The Lake’ by Louise Sharland

Published by Avon,
18 March 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-00-846580-3 (PB)

The most devastating blow any mother can suffer is to lose a child. Kate’s teenage son Michael drowned six years ago; small wonder she is still an emotional mess. She’s never had much self-confidence, having been brought up in a restrictive religious sect; and her fragile state of mind isn’t helped by her doctor husband Adam (not her son’s father) who keeps telling her to ‘move on’, and feeding her little blue pills. Almost from the outset I found myself yelling, ‘Get out of there before you’re damaged irreparably.’ 

It gets worse. Her mother has a stroke, and while Kate is tidying up her childhood home, she finds her son’s diary, and starts to discover some rather disturbing – and revealing – things about him. She has never bought the inquest verdict of accidental death, and now she starts to think her doubts were more than justified.

As well as a search for justice and some long-buried truths, The Lake is the story of a woman’s awakening to her own potential and belief in herself. It’s peopled with characters as flawed as Kate is herself. Some, like her sister Grace and neighbour Doris, are supportive; others, like her husband, and the mother who continues to manipulate although she’s barely conscious, are the opposite. Yet others, like would-be poets Julia, Marie-Claire and Sally and ‘college ambassador’ Becky, are more colourful background than anything else, but well drawn and interesting, nonetheless.

The settings are subtly presented, and each location underlines a part of Kate’s life. The middle-class home which Kate keeps exactly as Adam wants it; her mother’s cluttered house in Devon, where she lived with Michael when he was a small boy; the modern, upmarket college where she hopes to find the truth about Michael’s death.

When the truth is finally confirmed it comes as less of a surprise than it might, because Kate is already pretty sure what happened. But the way the reveal played out is no less dramatic and shocking for that, and afterwards the reader can breathe a sigh of relief. Cosmic justice can be every bit as satisfying as the legal kind.

The Lake isn’t a conventional crime novel, but it is a novel about the failure of the law and the tendency of what might be called the system to assume the obvious and take the easy way out. It’s well written and focuses on the kind of wrongdoing that has a way of slipping through the cracks. Fortunately, in fiction right almost always triumphs, and it certainly does here.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Louise Sharland moved to the UK from Montreal, Canada nearly thirty years ago after falling in love with a British sailor. She began writing short stories when her children were little and her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. In 2010 she won the Woman and Home Short Story Competition and her entry Black Rock, subsequently appeared in an anthology, The Best Little Book Club in Town (Orion 2011. In 2019 Louise won The Big Issue Crime Writing competition. Louise is fascinated with exploring ideas and themes around why good people do bad things, and her experience working with people who have experienced homelessness gives her work a strong humanitarian and social justice theme. Above all, Louise wants to tell a good story that is entertaining, thought provoking and well written.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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