I read “Summit Lake” in two days. It’s a page-turner book with a plot that starts off as clever and ends up as deeply cunning. I didn’t see the ending coming and I enjoyed being constantly offered the chance to guess who the bad guy was and never quite finding out.
“Summit Lake” is two stories intertwined: the story of Becca Eckersley, a student in her first year at Law School, comes to be raped and murdered in her parents’ vacation home on the shores of the picturesque Summit Lake and the story of Kelsey Castle, a crime reporter recovering from her own trauma, who is sent to investigate Becca’s death.
The novel is cleverly structured. It starts with the hook of Becca’s brutally violent death and then alternates between following Becca’s path to her death and following Kelsey’s attempts to uncover that path despite an attempted cover up. Charlie Donlea uses the intertwining of the two tales skillfully, sharing and withholding information to maximise the tension in both time lines.
The strength of the novel lies in the puzzle it sets and the skill with which the layers of the puzzle are unwound. This kept me turning the pages and wanting to know what happened next.
The dialogue in the book works well but the prose plods and occasionally falls over itself. If the plot had been even slightly less interesting, this would have put me off enough not to have read to the end.
The worst of the distractions could have been fixed by a diligent editor, which somehow made them more annoying.
At the least irritating end of the distractions was the habit of regularising irregular verbs: shone becomes shined, knelt becomes knealed and so on. At the most irritating end the distractions came from the misuse of language:
“All of this transcended on her in the seconds it took to fight the door open”
“She was tapping the MacBook with efficiency”
“She never heard the front door as the knob was tried from outside. The deadbolt held and after three attempts, the door went quiet.”
If things like this flow over you unnoticed, you’re in for a great read.
If not, enjoy the plot and read faster.