Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
Author: Carolyn J.
Author: Carolyn J.
This mystery is the sequel to the author’s Hemlock Lake. I also reviewed the latter for Bookpleasures. You might also want to read that review. Sequels are often compared to the first book in a series—this one is longer, just as well written and entertaining, and a bit more profound. I recommend it. Moreover, if you didn’t read Hemlock Lake, read them both. They are great stories from an indie writer who has mastered her craft.
The crimes here are multiple. First, Clarence Wolven, a distant relative of ex-Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Stone, is murdered. Why? And by whom? Dan and his old pal Jefferson Longyear try to find an answer to those questions. A key element to the story is that Clarence breeds and trains search and rescue dogs as well as one cadaver dog that survives the massacre at Clarence’s cabin. Crime #2: Why kill the dogs? Crime #3: Young girls turn up dead. Is the serial killer the same as Clarence’s murderer? Is he a local handyman named Luke? Or, is he an AWOL soldier?
Dan Stone and Camille Chancellor are busy rebuilding Dan’s family cabin that burned down in the first novel. They are also cementing a relationship that is complicated because of Dan’s previous wife’s betrayal with his brother. Additional stress to the new couple’s relationship comes when Rachel, the cancer-stricken mother of Ronny, the man who tried to kill Dan in the first novel, wants Dan and Camille to adopt her son’s children. They are Julie, a potential target for the serial killer or killers, and Justin, the AWOL soldier harboring resentment toward Dan and Jefferson for his father’s death.
There is enough complexity here for the most jaded mystery reader. Readers of Agatha Christie will remember how she wove mysteries around very small groups of people. Ms. Rose has also masterfully taken the small lime that is the Hemlock Lake community and squeezed enough juice out of it to make an intoxicating margarita—you just need to add the tequila. In the process, she probes deeply into the minds of her protagonists as she illustrates the good and bad of human nature.
By the way, don’t be deterred by the length of this novel. I savored every word, every scene, and every character. The real mystery here is that the reader can relate to this book on so many levels—the classical who-did-it, the characters and settings, and the philosophical questions related to life, death, and relationships. The intricacies of the author’s prose will nevertheless go down as smoothly as that margarita.
Did I say the Hemlock Lake community is small? Perhaps you have wandered through similar venues while exploring New England and upstate New York. I felt comfortable with the locals and their quirks. Maybe that’s why I had less of a problem picking out the murderer in this novel than in the first. My first guess was right again. Is this bad? I don’t think so. Even though I don’t write them, I’ve read many mysteries during my lifetime. My reading tastes have morphed into the thriller genre, but Ms. Rose is one of two modern authors who motivated me to return to the mystery genre as a reader. The author spins out many misdirects in this yarn, so don’t expect your job to be easy as you try to pick out the killer.
The “who?” of mysteries is over-rated. I’ve always been more interested in the “why?” Murder is the most anti-social crime that I can imagine, so I always look for the “why?” in fiction and in real life. Ms. Rose doesn’t dwell on this. I could have used a bit more detail in the denouement. Another way to do this is to get more inside the killer’s mind in a few sections or chapters, but this would possibly give too much away. Please take this opinion as a personal idiosyncrasy—most readers will be fine with the author’s explanation of the “why?”
I have another small problem with the title. It conveys the peaceful setting where most of the action takes place, but it doesn’t convey the sinister monster that lurks in those woods. I applauded the author’s choice of a title in Hemlock Lake. The sequel’s title seems to be an after-thought. Many readers don’t object to off-hand titles. While this one doesn’t contradict anything in the story, both title and cover would not lead me to choose this book on the bookstore shelves. Of course, this is a small nit to pick and in no way diminishes the superb writing.
Ms. Rose has developed quite an opus of her own books and books written with husband Mike Nettleton. You will find many hours of excellent reading there—Through a Yellow Wood is no exception.