Title: Lake Charles
Author: Ed Lynskey
Publisher: Wildside Press
Available: June 28, 2011
Brendan is trying to enjoy a relaxing weekend with his twin sister and his best friend Cobb. This is not as easy as it sounds because the fish aren't biting, his best friend is also his sister's estranged husband, Brendan is a murder suspect out on bail, and then, to top it off, his twin disappears. Brendan and Cobb start a systematic search of the lake's shores and become suspicious that foul play may be involved when they find evidence of the area being used for drug production.
Lynskey has a distinct style that starts right up on page one. This is the first of his novels I've read so it may be his usual style but I found it unusual in general. His language is direct, even raw at times, and colloquial which I found worked very well for the prose and internal thought processes of Brendan. However, it didn't always translate well to the dialogue. I should be more specific, it worked well in the dialogue when the dialogue was flowing between the characters but there were instances of info-dump that interrupted an otherwise consistent style.
The story is told just the way I like: without hand holding. Lynskey has a layered story to tell and he lets it unfold as the characters and the reader move through the narrative. I can clearly recall a couple times when I thought the plot had veered off in really random directions but the relevancy of these seeming tangents came clear for me as they did for the characters. He's also chosen an excellent backdrop for the type of story he has to tell. The local color of his Tennessee setting compliments the noir aspect of the novel.
The characterization doesn't hold together as well as the story, unfortunately. Brendan, his twin, and Cobb come off as much older than they are. In action, dialogue, and remembered events they do not seem like a trio in their late teens. For me, this undermined the authenticity of the characters. To be fair, Brendan makes some stupid decisions that might be a result of his youth (carrying and using weapons whilst out on bail for murder doesn't seem to be the type of thing to help your case), or it may just be that corruption in local law enforcement has made him feel his case is helpless. Cobb's dad, Mr. Kuzawa, is also a bit hard to believe at times. He goes along acting mostly normal (for him anyway:) and then these distracting sermons leak out making him almost comically melodramatic. A couple of the secondary characters worked out much better for me, most especially Ashleigh, the murder victim. She remains a pertinent character for a couple reasons but mostly because she appears to Brendan in dreams and visions egging him on to find her true murderer. I liked her attitude and the way she kept Brendan on his toes.
Ultimately, I think this will be a more satisfying read for those that like a distinct atmosphere and a nicely-plotted mystery than for those who prefer a character to latch on to as they move through a story. And the unusual style will definitely appeal to those looking for something different in crime fiction.
Learn more about the author here and here.
Note: This title kindly provided by the author.