Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Enchantment Lake a Fast, Fun (Though Frustrating) First Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Just because Francesca "Francie" Frye once played a detective on t.v. doesn't mean she knows anything about sleuthing.  Still, when the 17-year-old actress receives a frantic call from her aunt—who insists someone is trying to kill her and her sister—Francie doesn't hesitate to hop on a plane bound for northern Minnesota.  It's only en route that she starts to have some reservations about her hasty trip.  After all, everyone knows Francie's spinster aunts are a little ... eccentric.  As strange as they may be, the pair are old and living alone in an isolated cabin on an island that is accessible only by boat.  Francie has little choice.  She has to check on the elderly women.

Soon, Francie finds herself in Walpurgis, the tiny northwoods town where she spent many of her childhood summers.  While her aunties seem safe enough, they—like many of the older lakeside residents—are in an uproar over proposed development of their island paradise.  Land owners are being persuaded to sell heirloom cabins.  Those who hesitate, well, they seem to up and die in mysterious "accidents."  Francie's aunts are convinced something sinister is going on.  Are the old ladies just being paranoid?  Considering the creepy noises Francie hears in the woods at night, a weird confession from a could-be killer, and a poisoned hotdish that sends someone to their grave, Francie tends to agree with her aunts.  Something weird is happening at Enchantment Lake.  A certain northwoods Nancy Drew is determined to get to the bottom of it, which is, not incidentally, exactly where all the answers to the mystery may lie.

Enchantment Lake, the first book in Margi Preus' Northwoods Mystery series, offers a fast, fun read with a few twists to keep readers guessing.  Although the story features some colorful characters, it's the setting that really steals the show in this book.  Preus brings the lake and its surrounding community to life with vivid description and an obvious affection for the land.  Francie is much less convincing.  She doesn't talk or act like a teen.  Adults treat her as an equal, somehow believing that she's an NYPD detective, despite the fact that she's only seventeen.  Which begs the question, why would a teenager be playing a police officer on t.v. anyway?  These leaps in logic made it difficult for me to really believe in this story.  Overall, though, Enchantment Lake is not a bad read.  It's atmospheric, exciting, and stocked with enough red herrings to keep the killer's identity pretty well under wrap.  I didn't end up loving this book, but I didn't hate it either.  So that's something.

(Readalikes:  The Clue in the Trees by Margi Preus; also reminded me a little of the Jess Tennant series [How to Fall; Bet Your Life; Hide and Seek] by Jane Casey)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Enchantment Lake from the generous folks at University of Minnesota Press via those at Fantastic Flying Book Club.  Thank you!

3 comments:

  1. Wish this one had been better. It's an interesting premise, but you're right, what 17-year-old plays an NYPD detective on TV?

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  2. Sounds like if I can suspend my belief a little I might like this one.

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  3. Sounds interesting and I like the setting as well.

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