When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.
At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.
As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.
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A story that twists and turns with unexpected revel after unexpected reveal, Stranger in the Lake is the perfect read for the thrill-seeker at heart.
What I Like
The novel has so many themes that give it layers and a depth that is compelling to read. Most prominent among them is the theme of relationships, particularly mother and child. The story gives us two mothers who are bad but for opposite reasons. Charlie’s mom is so hands-off that it is a wonder Social Services never stepped in. Then there is Paul’s mother, who is so involved; it crosses the line in terms of healthy relationships. Both mothers left their scars and impacted the decisions of the main character in profound ways.
The theme of friendship runs throughout the novel and is just as important as the mother-child relationship theme. Paul, Jax, and Micah have been friends since childhood. They stick together through thick and thin and try to stay loyal above all. On the one hand, that’s heartwarming and even admirable, but what will happen if they have to make morally wrong choices? How will that impact your loved ones? Do two wrongs ever make a right?
The setting is perfect. The mountains of North Carolina are known for having unique citizens who keep to themselves and are wary of strangers. Folk tales and ghost stories run rampant, and a distrust of anyone with money is universal. There is an otherworldly quality to it that adds to the Lake’s mystique, which is the scene of not one but three unsolved murders. There is a theme about the disparity between the haves and have nots that works perfectly in this setting. The people who live in the trailer park feel marginalized, and I am sure this is true in real life as well. This presents an underlying conflict that runs through the novel – deep in the background – providing a valuable tone throughout the book.
There are many mysteries to be solved, and the same person may or may not have committed all three. I loved that there were so many puzzles to wrap my head around and figure out. I did not correctly figure out any of the three murderers, but they all worked just right with the plot.
What I Wish
I wish that Charlie’s reaction in the last part of the book had felt more genuine to the character and her feelings. I felt like she understood morally gray areas and even lived in a morally gray area, but suddenly, she became very black and white. I just found that very hard to believe and ended up getting very frustrated with her.
To Read or Not to Read
With multi-dimensional characters, relatable themes, and plenty of thrills and suspense, A Stranger in the Lake is the perfect summer read.
About the Author
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.
See my “About me” on my site.