His wife’s cries awoke the new father who, rushed, horrified, to the side of his first daughter’s crib in the nursery, an alcove just off what was now the master bedroom that Simon and Jonathan had renovated into a spectacular master bath, complete with a steam shower and Jacuzzi tub. It was Simon’s favorite thing, lazing in the scented water, enjoying a glass of wine and a good book. He had no idea that his great-grandmother had begun to lose her sanity in the exact spot where numerous water jets now massaged the kinks in his back. Although he had told Kate that he had never heard messages from the other side, if he had listened keenly enough during any one of his baths, he would have heard the soft weeping of a woman cradling her dead child, her first child. Clementine.
– Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb
Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb
In Daughters of the Lake, Kate is still recovering from a recent split with her unfaithful husband when she discovers the bodies of a dead woman and child in the lake near her parents’ house. To her surprise, she realizes that this woman is the same that has been haunting her dreams. When Kate and the police discover that this woman lived and died over a hundred years ago, Kate begins to unravel the mystery of the woman’s death and the strange links between this woman and Kate’s own family history.
In many ways, Daughters of the Lake is a ghost story: much of the action happens between Kate and her cousin Simon, and the spirits of their deceased family members in the family home that Simon has renovated into a bed and breakfast. Daughters of the Lake is first and foremost a mystery novel, and the mystery component was quite well done. I was certainly interested in solving the mystery of Addie’s death, and while I had guesses throughout the book, I never did guess the entire story until the ending. That being said, once the mystery was solved, every piece was logical and consistent – which isn’t as common in this genre as I would like. The ghost story elements were also woven in to this narrative quite well. The ghosts were named characters with consistent traits and logical actions, and added a lot to the tone of the novel.
There was so much that this book did right, but I wish there had been just a little more character development. Quite a few of the characters, especially Addie and Simon bordered on stereotypes – Addie’s whole personality revolved around her innocence and her complete trust in Jess, while Simon was a stereotypical gay man with little to no exception. Of course there was enough in the story itself to keep my interest, the characters felt constructed for the story to play itself out, rather than feeling like a living part of the story.
The historical setting in Daughters of the Lake was quite thorough and seemed accurate to the best of my knowledge. Sometimes books like this one that are split between two time periods spend a good deal of world development in one time period but not the other – that was not a problem in this one. The majority of the action of course happened in Kate’s time, but Addie’s world felt complete – everything from Addie’s small home town to Jesse’s time at college to their established adult life in Wharton. There were some great details about Jesse’s college life, and what marriage meant for that time period, and what financial success looked like in the early 1900s. I only wish there had been a little more information about Addie’s lineage – without giving too much away, there is a family tradition about a connection between an indigenous ancestor and the spirit of the lake. Of course this is quite common in this genre, but the details of the family story were incredibly vague, and a tribe was not mentioned by name. This could section could have been so much better if the family story was rooted in real indigenous culture rather than this invention of a tribe from a white writer’s imagination.
In all, I’ll give Daughters of the Lake an 8 out of 10. The mystery was compelling and vividly detailed world development makes this well worth the read. Most readers will find something to enjoy, and my critiques of the smaller details of the book did not really take much away from my enjoyment.