Set on the idyllic Cornwall coast, the novel spans almost seventy years from post first world war years to the early 21st Century.
Enter Sadie Sparrow, a smart young detective from the Metropolitan Police visiting her grandfather whilst the dust settles on an investigation gone wrong back in the city. She has her own demons to run from, a letter that needs an answer and a case she has supposedly mishandled. It’s time to reflect on both her career and her life, but one day while out running, Sadie discovers a beautiful but crumbling old house abandoned near a lake. She is captivated by the thought of who once lived there, and always the detective, makes it her mission to find out.
During the summer of 1933, the Edevane family prepare for the annual Midsummer’s Eve Party to be held at Loeanneth, their beautiful lakeside Cornish home. Young Alice Edevane is part of the sprawling Edevane family, and she wants to be a writer, so spends her days writing in her journal and dreaming of finding love with Benjamin Munro, the handsome gardener. Her parents, the enigmatic Eleanor and Anthony Edevane are living out their own love story, but it is one fraught by secrets.
The close-knit family are living life in a bubble that requires commitment and determination if it is not to be burst. Their daughters Alice, Clementine and Deborah are unaware of the secret itself but are fully aware of the tension it creates. Eleanor eventually has a son called Theo when her husband returns from the war. The family is complete.
As the Midsummer Eve party approaches, the whole family is drawn into the preparations along with the house staff and gardeners. Alice has found the perfect twist for her novel, and just wants to tell Benjamin Munro about it, but where is he? Why does the family guest the elderly writer Llewellyn want to talk to her so urgently?
Morton’s writing brings to intense life the sense of summer heat, busyness and excitement as the whole house is caught up in the tension. But during the party, the worst happens, the boy Theo disappears right from under the protection of his nurse, and in spite of intense searching for him, has completely vanished.
The perfect family is now fragile, fragmented by grief and unanswered questions. Was he kidnapped, and if so, where is the ransom note – or did he just wander off, and why have the police not found him? Eventually, the distraught family leave Loeanneth and return to the city, leaving the charming house to fall into ruin and decay.
The grown-up Alice Edevane is a prolific author of detective novels. She and her older sister Deborah are now the only two members of the family who remain. Discussing family secrets is painful to them both. Sadie Sparrow is intrigued by the mystery of the lost child and turns it into her own cold case as she applies 21st Century detective work to the case.
But why does Alice resist being interviewed by Sadie, and what did their sister Clementine see in the boathouse before she died? What actually happened to the child? Why was the nanny not questioned more closely, and why did Anthony Edevane spend so much time locked in his room supposedly doing ‘research’? Like a dog with a bone, Sadie persists as if solving this seventy-year-old mystery will be the answer she needs whilst her own career lies in limbo.
Kate Morton has written layer upon finely crafted layer. Characters are partially drawn and we are left to fill in the pieces as they each emerge to take centre stage in the unfolding of the mystery. Not all is as it seems, and as the layers are carefully and at times painfully removed, what is left is both human and confronting. And as the plot finally unfolds, Sadie is confronted with her own career drama and those of her own family secrets.
The Lake House is a great read, I found it initially a little hard to get into with so many characters, but when I finally succumbed to its spell, I was completely hooked.
The Lake House by Kate Morton is available now from Dymocks.
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