The Lost Women of Lost Lake
A Jane Lawless Mystery by Ellen Hart
Review: Jane Lawless accompanies her friend Cordelia to Lost Lake when their mutual friend, who's directing a local play there, is unable to continue in her role, having fallen and badly sprained her ankle. But a mysterious man with a photograph from the 1960s disrupts their plans in The Lost Women of Lost Lake, the 19th mystery in this series by Ellen Hart.
Cordelia immediately steps in for Tessa Cornell as the play's producer/director, leaving Tessa to deal with her nephew Jonah, who has shown up unexpectedly, hitchhiking from his new home in Missouri. Tessa's long-time partner, Jill Ivorsen, owns the Thunderhook Lodge and Jane is happy to simply take advantage of the resort's amenities. But Tessa seems uneasy over something else unrelated to her injury, the play, or even her family. A private investigator has been showing an old photograph around town and asking questions about a woman shown in it … and he's even made his presence known on the lodge's property. Tessa isn't talking about it, but Jane is more than a little alarmed that Tessa keeps a loaded shotgun at the ready. When the man eventually turns up dead, Cordelia and Jane suspect Tessa may have had something to do with it. But there are other factors that may have played a role too, factors that compel Jane to take a closer look into the tight-knit community … and the secrets some may be keeping.
It is somewhat rare for series characters to reflect on why they are, in fact, series characters in mysteries. Jane Lawless does just that fairly early in this book, and it's a refreshingly frank assessment:
For many years, Jane had engaged in what others might term risky behavior. She'd helped friends, friends of friends, and even a few strangers with various criminal problems. She already knew she enjoyed the intellectual part of crime solving — connecting the dots, thinking about motives and means — and yet now, as an adult, she also discovered that she liked getting her hands dirty, liked the chase. She might not admit it out loud, but that frisson of danger made her feel more alive.
In many ways, The Lost Women of Lost Lake is not unlike any number of Agatha Christie village-style mysteries. The story takes place in a small resort town in Minnesota and offers Jane the opportunity to operate in full amateur sleuth mode. This is not a fast-paced crime novel; rather the author sets the stage with a number of well-crafted vignettes from different perspectives that gradually immerse the reader into the murder mystery storyline.
The book ends on a somewhat unexpected note, though given how it started — with Jane considering her future — it probably shouldn't be all that surprising. While the vast majority of the books in this long-running series have had a personal element to them — "When you know the people involved, when you like … or even love … some of them, it just makes it tougher," she says at the end of this book — future cases for Jane promise to allow her to investigate them on a more professional basis.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of The Lost Women of Lost Lake for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Cruel Ever After
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), December 2010
ISBN-13: 9780312614768; ISBN-10: 0312614764
Rest for the Wicked
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), October 2012
ISBN-13: 9781250001863; ISBN-10: 1250001862
Location(s) referenced in The Lost Women of Lost Lake: Minnesota
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The Lost Women of Lost Lake by Ellen Hart — A Jane Lawless Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: September 2011
List Price: $25.99