I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but sometimes it's hard not to, and as soon as my ARC (that's advanced reading copy, to anyone who doesn't know !) of Lake Charles plopped on the door mat, I had high expectations. The eerie skeleton combined with the hauntingly beautiful scenery of the lake promised great things so I turned to the first chapter in eager anticipation.
The opening chapters didn't disappoint. In this high-octane thriller, we meet Brendan Fishback, heading off to Lake Charles for some bass-fishing with his best buddy Cobb and his twin sister Edna, who just happens to be Cobb's estranged wife, with her jet-ski. They're hoping for some relaxation but also reconciliation and Brendan also wants to get his mind off his upcoming murder trial. We learn that Brendan is in it up to his neck after a one-night stand with a rich daddy's girl went wrong. After smoking some pot, the couple fell asleep and when Brendan wakes up, the girl is dead, some hardcore Angel Dust has appeared and he seems to have been well and truly set up.
Just like the one night stand, the fun weekend fishing trip also turns sour when Edna goes missing. Hunting around the banks of the lake for her, they stumble across some marijuana plantations and realise that they've stumbled into trouble again. The proverbial lightning may not strike twice but Brendan seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time again. As they continue their search, everything seems to become strangely entwined - Edna's disappearance, the drugs, the dead girl - and, knowing that Brendan already has the finger of suspicion pointed firmly in his direction, especially from the police, they have to sort it all out for themselves.
The opening chapters had me on the edge of my seat, gripped by the drama and with my mind working overtime trying to figure out what could have happened and what would be the best thing to do. However, as the adventure continues and the body count grows higher, I couldn't help but notice that I seemed to be the only one displaying any signs of emotion so that rather took the edge off. The central characters, despite being shot at, desperately trying to recover a loved one in mortal danger and being involved in deadly shoot-outs, seem strangely calm, detached and unfazed by everything. Even losing a loved one barely seems to register on their emotional radar and this makes them seem wooden and unrealistic.
The drugs plantation plotline frequently reminded me of The Beach, Alex Garland's novel which was turned into a film starring Leonardo Di Caprio by Danny Boyle. I felt the novel had great potential but, due to the lack of emotion, the major high and low-points lacked the impact they could have had and, ultimately, the characters' indifference won me over too, which was a shame.
It's still a good read but some careful editing and an injection of emotion could make it into a great read.
star rating : 3.5/5
RRP : £7.99
Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Wildside Press (28 Jun 2011)
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