Review: Dan Stone returns to upstate New York, the area of his childhood — and later the area of personal heartache — to help investigate a series of arsons in Hemlock Lake, potentially the first of a series by Carolyn J. Rose.
Dan grew up along Hemlock Lake, but after college, he married and moved to Arizona. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, his wife, Susanna, convinces him to move back. He had always been his mother's favorite — his brother, Nat, was much closer to their father, a Vietnam War hero — and so Dan returned to Hemlock Lake, though he insisted it was only temporary. Following his mother's death, he wanted to go back to Arizona, but Susanna thought the family should remain together. Taking a job with the Sheriff's department as a police sergeant, he worked rotations, weekends mostly. But tragedy struck again, Susanna drowning in Hemlock Lake, and Nat killing himself, leaving a note apologizing to Dan for being unable to save her. Devastated by the loss of his favorite son, Dan's father has a stroke, slowly drifting towards death. Dan has lost the people closest to him, but feels an obligation to look after his dying father.
In an effort to lay the ghosts to rest, Dan takes on the assignment of searching for an arsonist, who is targeting a new development in the area. The local community is up in arms over the sale of some prime property, and resent Dan for being involved in "helping" the developer by identifying the person — or persons — involved. At first Dan thinks it may simply be a radical environmentalist who is setting the fires, but as his investigation continues, he starts to believe it may be one of his own friends, who may be behind the crimes.
Though written as a police procedural-style crime thriller, Hemlock Lake is probably more notable for its characters. Myriad relationships are explored: within families, between friends, and even those which represent the past and the present, tradition versus progress. Dan Stone is especially well drawn, an "insider" in that he grew up in the area and he knows most of the residents, yet an "outsider" for leaving and returning, not because he wanted to, but because he felt he had to. Guilt and innocence — and not necessarily criminal guilt and innocence — are themes that are explored here as well. There are many layers to this book, but it's the balance between family drama and local mystery that will likely appeal to most readers.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Hemlock Lake.
Acknowledgment: Carolyn J. Rose provided an ARC of Hemlock Lake for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Hemlock Lake: Upstate New York
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Hemlock Lake by Carolyn J. Rose
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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