Sixteen-year-old Clara Morris is facing an awkward summer with her father in the tiny upstate town of Redmarch Lake. Clara’s relationship with her parents—and with life in general—has been strained since she lost her twin sister, Zoe, when the girls were eight. As a child, her sister had been her whole world—they even shared a secret invented twin language. Clara has managed to rebuild herself as best she can, but she still feels a hole in her life from the absence of her twin, and she suspects she always will.
She soon finds that Redmarch Lake, where her father’s family has lived for generations, is a very unusual place. The townspeople live by odd rules and superstitions. The eerily calm lake the town is named for both fascinates and repels her. The town’s young people are just as odd and unfriendly as their parents. Clara manages to befriend the one boy willing to talk to an outsider, but he disappears during a party in the woods.
The next day, he is found dead in the lake under mysterious circumstances. The townspeople all treat this as a tragic accident. Clara isn’t buying it, but she doesn’t know what to do until she receives a mysterious note hinting at murder—a note written in the language she shared with her twin sister, Zoe.
(From Book Blurb)
The People of the Lake is a fascinating mix of several genres. Recently I had a similar experience with the Whisper Man by Alex North where I started reading the book thinking it was a horror and later had to re-evaluate the story in the light of further revelations that put the novel into a different genre. Here I started thinking the book was a psychological thriller with some very spooky elements, but the second part and the ending were more in the fantasy realm.
Clara Morris, a sixteen year girl from Manhattan, decides to spend her summer holidays in a remote town of Redmarch Lake her father moved to after the divorce. The build up of tension in this book is spectacular. We know something is wrong with this town long before Clara sets her foot in it. I loved the descriptions of the unnervingly still lake and the surrounding woods. Add unfriendly town residents who very quickly show Clara that outsiders are not welcome in Redmarch Lake. Clara is a typical teenager. She loves her parents and would love to be able to communicate with them, but in the heat of the moment she just says things which are more snarky than she intends them to be. It doesn’t help that her father is a silent type who gives a lot of warnings about not going alone to the woods, but doesn’t find it easy to explain why. Similarly, he doesn’t want to talk about the divorce, or, even more importantly for Clara, he doesn’t even mention Zoe, Clara’s twin sister who drowned saving Clara’s life when they were eight years old. Clara befriends Neil, the only person in the town who is willing to talk to her in a welcoming way. Neil invites her to a party in the woods, but unfortunately, the following morning he is found dead under suspicious circumstances. When Clara finds a note written in the secret language she and Zoe invented, she knows she needs to investigate and break the wall of superstitious silence the town folk seem to have surrounded themselves with.
Clara is brave and tenacious. I liked the way she never gave up on reaching out to Ashley, Neilìs ex-girlfriend, who blamed Clara for upsetting the town’s delicate balance and causing Neil’s death. Clara’s grief over her lost twin sister, who used to be her whole world, is probably one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel. There is a love interest as well, as you would expect in a YA novel, but I didn’t find his character as well-developed as that of Zoe, Clara’s deceased sister, who appears to be loyal and mischievious at the same time.
The People of the Lake was a perfect October read for me, as the book relies a lot on the reader to fill the gaps and imagine spooky, scary things happening in this little isolated town and come up with one’s own theories of what is and has been happening there for centuries. The historical excerpts are short and relevant and represent ‘close escapes’ different outsiders had with the town and its dark secret.
There was one major twist that I didn’t see coming and this is where the book started picking pace, perhaps a bit too much. I did enjoy the build-up of characters, atmosphere and tension in the first half of the book, while the second part and the ending, although original, appeared a bit rushed. The fantasy world the author created could have been expanded and described in more detail.
Overall, it was an entertaining debut novel and I would definitely like to read more books by this author.
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher (Sky Pony) for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
- Have you read The People of the Lake or is it on your tbr?
- Are there any other books about twins written in a similar genre that you would recommend?
- Do you enjoy a small town setting in thriller/ horror books?