I have read every novel Kate Morton has written, not because I am a huge fan, but because they can guarantee me a certain type of satisfaction or pleasure. Each of her novels possesses a great band of characters, a well devised plot (if I recollect correctly, split between the present and the past), some romantic intrigue and finally a neat little bow on top, whereby all the various threads of the story come tidily together to provide the reader with a happy ending. She is the ultimate in beachy, holiday reads. There’s no sadness, no upset, no concerns, just a really great ‘whodunnit’.
The Lake House possesses all of these tried and tested components. Firstly we have our heroine, DC Sadie Sparrow, a brilliant detective whose last case has left her nearly without a job. On compulsory leave, Sparrow spends her time with her grandfather in Cornwall and whilst there stumbles by chance upon an abandoned house. Her innate curiosity means that she is unable to just walk away with a quick “Well done me!” look, but rather finds herself trying to resolve a missing child case from the 1920s. Enter Alice Edvane aging mystery writer and one time resident of the aforementioned home. What light can she shine on the disappearance of the young Theo? Is she in some way responsible? I could tell you more, but frankly if you aren’t hooked by now then this kind of book simply isn’t for you.
Coming in at over four hundred pages, this is the perfect one-book-holiday read. You are very unlikely to guess all of the various threads of the story before the end, even if some of them come shuddering into terrible clarity just a little too soon. I think Morton is amazingly good at capturing a sense of excitement and mystery in her books, which makes them tremendous fun. What adult wouldn’t love to stumble across an abandoned house, sitting on a lake, with mysterious tunnels running through the grounds, where the windows are just clean enough to see photographs and the dates on things? All those childhood thrills that you haven’t yet abandoned as an adult are there to draw you in. No divide is too big that it is unable to be resolved. Everyone you meet is just helpful enough to provide you with your next clue, allowing you or sorry, DC Sparrow, to move the plot along.
Ultimately the problem with Morton is all the things that make her so enjoyable, in one word the predictability. She’s not one of my favorite writers, just because without fail I know what I’m getting, just as surely as if I turn on some long running TV show. Yes, there may be surprises in some chapters, but ultimately our hero or heroine will come good and everyone will be happy, receiving exactly what they deserve. To me, this book is like cake. You want to eat a slice, you know you should be doing something else, it tastes good, but at the end you don’t feel particularly satisfied. In fact you feel as you always feel when you know that you could have eaten something a little more nutritious. So it is with this book, I feel that however much I enjoyed it, I really should have been reading something different. That said, in the next couple of years, when the next Morton book comes out, will I buy it? Absolutely. I’ll toy with not purchasing it for the first three or four months and then one night, when I can’t find anything else….. well, you know how that goes. Weirdly, some the elements I’m criticizing here are exactly what I love about Simone St James’ novels, but maybe I find that more forgivable in a 300 page novel, with supernatural elements? I guess that I’m just fickle.
I tell you, this novel is cake.