Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lake of the Dead: A Winston Radhauser Mystery #5 by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Lake of the Dead: A Winston Radhauser Mystery #5. Susan Clayton-Goldner. Tirgearr Publishing.  January 2019. 291 pp.; ASIN #: B07L5Z6BMB.

When the story begins, the reader thinks it’s going to be a crime associated with transgender truth and persecution.  Rashima (formerly called Roy) is having tremendous problems as she’s believed she’s always been a girl despite what her anatomy indicates. Her parents and school peers’ scorn and even persecute her.  However, she’s got a steeliness that has grown since she became friends with Parker Collins and with whom she’s fallen in love.  Parker has been writing stories since he was a child.  When the story opens, Rashima is frantic because she hasn’t heard from him.  He’s gone up to a cabin his Writing Professor lent him to use far away from telephones, TVs, computers, etc. because she believes he is the most gifted student she has ever had and is sure someday he will win a major award for his novel.

Finally, after his missing status has been reported, Officer Winston Radhauser gets involved.  He is also an unusual person who accepts people for who they are and focuses more of his empathy than judgment on people like Rashima and Parker.  However, his involvement is on a purely investigative mode and he’s able to maintain an objectivity despite his feelings one way or another.  He’s about to be extremely surprised about this investigation’s results.

At first, he’s surprised by the professor, Maggie Hollingsworth’s strong feelings about Parker.  When Radhauser gets a brief glimpse of Parker’s writing in his notebooks he’s kept since he was a child, Radhauser quickly knows this is a sensitive soul who has suffered on his own, something Maggie couldn’t help but miss.  This then is the search for Parker and after finding Parker’s body the search for his killer.

Everyone in this story has an “agenda,” stuff to deal with that can be life-changing in the best or worst ways, including Parker and Rashima’s families.  However, sometimes the reader tries to play private eye and couldn’t be farther from the truth with this scenario.

The plot of this novel is really about character and this is where Susan Clayton-Goldner clearly excels.  The reader continues to want to know more and more about each character, not to supply a “who did it” answer, but just for the descriptions of the simplicity and complexity of each character. This is the magic that fuses all of parts, right up to the last riveting page.  Very nicely done, Ms. Clayton-Goldner – recommended great read of this mystery, the fifth in her series!

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The Suspect. Fiona Barton. Penguin Publishing Group..  January 2019. $26.00; hb, 416 pp.; ISBN: 9781101990513.

One of the worst nightmares for parents would be the disappearance or death of a child. One probably can’t imagine such a scene.  In many ways, parents are slightly out of touch once teens become older and exert some independence. So when Alex and a new friend Rosie go to Bangkok, Thailand, their parents are happy that they are supposedly having a great time.  The few texts they send to their parents and other friends seem to send the same message, the trip of a lifetime, which is exactly what it’s not!

At the same time, Kate Waters and her husband have fallen out of touch with their son, Jake.  He is also in Bangkok but no one knows what he’s doing there.  He was supposed to be continuing his education but that’s far from reality.  The story also concerns a young man named Jamie, a kind of obsessive guy who is mildly irritating to his crowd of friends and a Thai landlady called Mamma. 

When Alex and Rosie stop sending messages and haven’t been heard from in a little over week, the parents and friends become very concerned.  Days later, the nightmare scenario rears its head; the girls are dead.  Weeks later, news hits that they didn’t die in a fire but had actually died before they were found in the remains of a fire.  This then is the mystery that fills these page-turning scenes of the investigation that follows.  It also turns out that Jake Waters was a friend of the two girls and might have started the fired hostel where the girls were found.  Drugs, sex, and a fairly wild life seem to consume most of the tourists in Bangkok and police are quick to close cases rather than investigate further. Alex fails to follow her better instincts before it is too late.

Now the parents are involved and that is tragic, high drama.  Kate Water cannot stop being a journalist and begins her own search regarding her own son.  While some of the parts are repetitive and a bit lengthy, the mystery’s solution is both unpredictable and wild beyond anyone’s imagination.  It’s a story of innocence gone awry, parents who are quite disconnected from reality, dysfunctional families and individuals who seem beyond redemption, and a question of who is innocent or guilty.   It’s an exciting, sad and thrilling roller-coaster read!  Nice job, Fiona Barton – good read!