Friday, November 21, 2014

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

In the evocative tradition of Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History , comes this accomplished debut of youthful innocence drowned by dark sins. Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare. Since freshmen year, Jane and her two roommates, Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall, were inseparable–studying the classics, performing school girl rituals on the lake, and sneaking out after curfew to meet Lucy’s charismatic brother Matt. However, the last winter before graduation, everything changed. For in that sheltered, ice-encrusted wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of senseless suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden for more than two decades in the dark depths of Heart Lake. Now pages from Jane’s missing journal, written during that tragic time, have reappeared, revealing shocking, long-buried secrets. And suddenly, young, troubled girls are beginning to die again . . . as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface. At once compelling, sensuous, and intelligent, The Lake of Dead Languages is an eloquent thriller, an intricate balance of suspense and fine storytelling that proves Carol Goodman is a rare new talent with a brilliant future. From the Hardcover edition.

My take: 3 looks ***SPOILERS***
Interesting book, to be sure. It had the potential of a riveting and plot-twisting storyline, but missed the mark in the end.

20 years ago, there were three deaths. Today, the roommate of the dead girls has returned to the boarding school as the Latin teacher. An intriguing premise; and using Latin words, classic literature and imagery as a thread throughout the story was a nice touch not used commonly in today's mysteries. However, the book was very character-heavy with past students, founding family members, current students, faculty and others. It was very difficult for me to keep them all in line.

In addition to this, the plot was a bit predictable. I knew that there was something nefarious in the relationship between Matt and Lucy, that Albie was trouble, and that Dr. Lockhart was up to no good. The read herrings were used effectively, though. To avoid revealing all here, I will not spoil those rabbit-trails.

In the end, I was not at all satisfied that I had read a full-bodied mystery. I felt as if I has watched an old episode of a television series where, try as they might to draw the characters fully, there is limit to what can be done in the space provided. However, it was an easy read, offered a solid ending, and was entertaining enough for me to recommend as a vacation read.

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