The Lake House by Kate Morton

9781742376516

 

The Lake House

 

Title: The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Category: Fiction

Pages: 596

Available formats: Print and Ebook

Publication Date: 21/10/15

RRP: AU$32.99

Synopsis: A missing child.

 

June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

 

An abandoned house.

 

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

 

An unsolved mystery.

 

Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.

 

~*~

 

Kate Morton’s fifth novel starts with a mysterious scene that invites the reader into the story instantly. I wanted to know who this girl was, carrying a bag at night to bury. And why? Immediately, the reader is thrust into the world of mystery, the mystery disappearance of little Theo Edevane in 1933, and his family. Parallel to this story is that of Sadie Sparrow, a police detective on leave after a troubling case, and reprimand – seventy years after Theo’s disappearance. She discovers Loeanneth during a walk with her grandfather’s dogs, and is drawn into the mystery of the missing child, Theo.

When Sadie contacts Alice about the disappearance of Theo in 1933, eager to uncover the truth, a series of events lead to the lives of Sadie, her grandfather, Alice and Alice’s assistant colliding to resolve what happened.

Like Kate’s other novels, The Lake House journeys between 1933 and 2003, and the years of The First World War and the intervening seventy years, with significant events and clues being dropped throughout the book at careful intervals, and the right places. The story of Theo’s disappearance parallels Sadie’s current life, the case that made her break protocol, that keeps haunting her throughout the book, and her own past that has come back to haunt her throughout the book. These threads slowly combine to unite the story in a way that still has me thinking about it, even days after completing the final chapter.

The setting of Cornwall, and the mysterious Loeannath create the perfect air of mystery, and the house, left alone for seventy years, acts as a time machine, transporting the characters and the reader back to the time of the Midsummer Party, and disappearance of little Theo, and the raw emotions of the time bubble to the surface when Alice enters the house with Bertie, Sadie’s grandfather, Sadie and Peter. Entering the house with them, the shadow of the mystery hung over the beautiful house yet at the same time, it was as though the house had come back to life for the first time in seventy years.

The mystery was well presented, and the parallels in the lives of the characters echoed each other in an effective manner, bringing it to a nice conclusion that has left me wanting to know more about the fates of these characters. I look forward to the next book by Kate Morton.

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill

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Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2013

Book Synopsis: After narrowly escaping Nazi terror, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe.

But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be.

~*~

I was delighted to be able to leap headfirst into another adventure with Rowland. Edna, Clyde and Milt in London, along with his brother, Wilfred, sister-in-law, Kate and nephews, Ewan and Ernest. Staying at Claridge’s after escaping Fascist Germany, Rowly and his friends are soon privy to the murder of a fellow guest, Lord Pierrepont is murdered, and found in stockings and a women’s nightie – in rather scandalous circumstances that lead to people related to him and the police trying to cover things up. Sulari does a fabulous job of revealing clues to the reader just as the characters find them. The journey to Madame Tussaud’s in London is seemingly innocent enough – Rowly and his friends are in the company of his nephew, Ernest. But the discovery here of a wax head of Pierrepont, and the sculptor hoisting it off onto them to deliver it to Euphemia Thistlethwaite leads the reader into a series of humour-filled interactions with the head in a hat box, and then resting on a desk in the suite Rowland and his friends are staying in.

My favourite line in relation to the head came towards the end of the novel, after a second failed attempt to return it to Lord Harcourt and the family: “Rowland nodded. He had been preoccupied and now he’d lost Pierrepont’s head.” It had the feeling or something morbid yet as the head was wax, quite amusing. The aftermath of Rowly losing the head is equally enjoyable to read and experience, in particular, Wilfred’s reaction to the whole situation of why they had a wax head of a dead man in their rooms.

Though Wilfred throughout the novels is disapproving of Rowly’s friends and maybe a little hard on him, he does not just let anyone get away with trying to harm his family. I found this coming through much more since Paving the New Road, following Rowly’s encounters with the Nazi Stormtroopers. The continuity and growth that readers get to experience with this relationship makes the novels well worth the read.

Sulari has again seamlessly and delightfully incorporated real-world figures such as Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells and Stanley Melbourne Bruce into the narrative, as figures for Rowland and his comrades to interact with. For me as a reader, this brings even more authenticity to the world she is creating and meandering in. I hope we get to see more of their reactions to what is going on in Germany and the outcomes of this.

The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries are one of my favourite crime series, because they also incorporate real world history and figures. It feels genuine because of these characteristics, and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for Rowly in the future.

Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill

rowly-4Book Title: Paving the New Road (Rowland Sinclair, #4)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: August 1st, 2012

Book Synopsis: It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening.

Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Führer, is on a fascist tour of the Continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause. Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions. The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.

But when their man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.

Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism. Amidst the goosestepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history. In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.

Plots thicken, loyalties are tested and bedfellows become strange indeed

~*~

My fourth sojourn with Rowland, Milt, Edna and Clyde took me away from Sydney, and into Nazi Germany, in 1933. The flight with Kingsford-Smith and the ensuing journey set up the identities that the friends were entering the Fascist nation under the iron fist of Hitler on quite well, and their encounters with historical figures and authors along their journey to prevent Eric Campbell from bringing Nazism back to the shores of Australia that further entrenches the story within the historical context it sits within. Rowland’s trip to Germany sees him taking his brother, Wilfred’s place, for the same task for the Old Guard to stop Campbell’s attempts to introduce Hitler’s ideology to Australia. In this book, rather than disdain for his brother, Wilfred expresses concern at the task Rowland has been asked to take on to save him, and the nation, but nonetheless, provides the support his brother needs for the dangerous expedition to Munich and the Third Reich, following the death of the Old Guard’s previous man posted there. The events of 1933 in Germany were instantly familiar to me, having studied them before. I was immersed in the world so deeply, that it penetrated my dreams. The Third Reich period of history, though horrific in many ways, is fascinating as a study into the horrors that the human race is truly capable of if we blindly follow and believe a leader and their ideology, or turn the other way.

In Munich, Rowland encounters Nancy Wake, Unity Mitford and Albert Goring, amongst other figures, mixed up in the mess of the Third Reich and their book burnings, and the beginnings of the expulsion of Jews, Communists and anyone else that the Nazi Party deems unfavourable. These three figures are fighting against it , in such a way that people believe they are actually supporting it: perhaps the best sort of espionage there is…as long as you don’t get caught. It is these atrocities that bring Rowland into direct contact with what extreme politics can really do, despite his adventures in the previous three novels and his constant indifference. The character development of Rowland and his friends in this novel was executed brilliantly. Their run-ins with the SA and Rohm lead to a finale that had me reading until I had finished the book, well into the late night-time hours, unable to put the book aside until I knew Rowland’s fate.

Poor Rowland has been through so much in these four books, always finding himself at the wrong end of the people he is investigating or spying on, but like a true hero, he always comes through, injured, but alive. Rowland has been and will continue to be a favourite character of Australian literature, and I look forward to reading his further adventures. Sulari Gentill has the ability to entrench her readers within the world of Rowland and Woodlands Estate, or wherever Rowland happens to be where crimes are being committed. Books five and six await, and I am eager for book seven when it makes its appearance.

Miles Off Course by Sulari Gentill

rowly-3

Book Title: Miles Off Course (Rowland Sinclair, #3)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: February 1st, 2012

Book Synopsis: In early 1933, Rowland Sinclair and his companions are ensconced in the superlative luxury of The Hydro Majestic – Medlow Bath, where trouble seems distant indeed.

And then Harry Simpson vanishes.

Croquet and pre-dinner cocktails are abandoned for the High Country where Rowland hunts for Simpson with a determination that is as mysterious as the disappearance itself. Stockmen, gangsters and a belligerent writer all gather to the fray, as the investigation becomes embroiled with a much darker conspiracy.

Murder, Treason, Trespass, Kidnapping, Betrayal…

Again, Rowland Sinclair finds himself in the middle of it all.

~*~

We again find our beloved hero, Rowland Sinclair, and his trio of friends, Clyde, Milt and Edna, in a peaceful interlude between mysteries that engulf them and endanger their lives. They are taking a much deserved time-out at the Hydro Majestic following the events of A Decline in Prophets for Edna to recuperate and to try and stay away from politics, but a missing stockman in the High Country property Rowland and his family own, a break-in at Woodlands Estate and murderous Communists and Fascists make sure this quiet retreat is disturbed. Wilfred, Rowland’s older brother, sends him to the High Country and their property to search for Harry Simpson, the missing stockman. Here, Rowly and his crew are met by author, Sarah Brent, the former governess to Wilfred and Aubrey, and belligerent stockman, unwilling to help and even more suspicious of Rowly and his friends as time goes by. Rowland is led to believe that Harry Simpson has up and left, and there is no point in looking for him by the lead stockman left in his place, Moran. It is Moran’s attitude that is perhaps a driving factor in Rowland’s determination to find Harry and discover what his supposed stockmen are up to whilst he lives in Sydney.

The characters feel alive as they tumble over the pages and I loved the cameos of historical figures such as Norman Lindsay. It made the book feel genuine and the setting even more so, because it brings the reader into a real time and place, peppered with real and fictional characters, and their interactions make it all the more interesting.

Wilfred and Rowland’s relationship took quite a turn towards the end of this book – perhaps for the better I hope, but I will have to read the rest of the books to see how it pans out, if the realisation of Rowly’s true allegiance is recognised by Wilfred, even if he does continually disagree with the life Rowland leads in Sydney.