Book review: Echo Lake by Joan Sauers

Friday, May 19, 2023 Permalink

Echo Lake by Joan Sauers is an atmospheric read, set in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. It’s an area I don’t know at all but Sauers does a great job of placing readers amidst the frost and drizzle, with the setting very much reflective of the book’s tone, rather than overpowering the unfolding narrative.

Book review: Echo Lake by Joan SauersEcho Lake
by Joan Sauers
Published by Allen & Unwin
on 02/05/2023
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9781761067594
Pages: 384

In the sleepy, scenic Southern Highlands of New South Wales, a beautiful young woman goes missing.

Six years later, recently divorced historian Rose McHugh leaves the city to start a new life in the Highlands and finds a roll of film buried in her back garden. On it are photos of the missing woman.

Against the advice of an enigmatic detective, she uses her powers of persuasion and her knack for deciphering clues to pursue the case. As Rose searches through tangled secrets and hidden places haunted by the past, she realises there is a killer at large.

As she makes new friends, and dangerous enemies, Rose closes in on a suspect—but will she solve the mystery too late to save herself?

In Rose Sauers creates a likeable lead. Two decades earlier Rose fell in love with an older university lecturer and shelved her career when her son was born. Her husband only wanted the one child and she dedicated her life to them. Fast forward almost twenty years and Rose discovered her husband with another student. The pair separated and Rose was left devastated when she discovered he was to have another child with his new partner. She had fond memories of childhood holidays to the Southern Highlands, so as this book opens Rose has bought an old cottage and readying herself for her new life.

Her entry into her new community doesn’t quite go as expected after she has a run-in with a bad tempered local and then becomes embroiled in a missing person’s case that results in a fresh murder. And the fact that she continues to be in the (ahem) right place at the right time means she also becomes a suspect in recent events.

Rose plays detective here, much to the chagrin of the real police but (as a historian and researcher) her investigative skills are solid (and feasible). And Sauers’ experience as a screenwriter is evident as she effortlessly spins a complex, rather than convoluted, tale and misdirects readers (and Rose) a number of times.

The only part that felt a little underdone here were references to Rose being slightly psychic or having a sixth sense for the history of a place… which was touched on but not pursued in any detail.

However the strength of this novel by Sauers is the characters she creates, including Rose of course, along with her Sydney-based sister Kim and an eclectic group of locals she meets. Indeed the depth of their character development feels like an indication we’ll meet them all again in future novels in this series and I’d certainly enjoy the opportunity.

Echo Lake by Joan Sauers was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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