I read Kimberly Belle’s Dear Wife just months ago. When I read the blurb for her new release Stranger in the Lake it made me worry a little about her take on marriage as both featured missing, murdered and fearful wives.
Interestingly I was a little torn as I read this. Though I enjoyed the book overall, the things I liked about the book and our characters in the beginning ended up being the things that ultimately frustrated me.
Stranger in the Lake
by Kimberly Belle
Published by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
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.
I very much liked the Charlotte we meet at the beginning of this book. We get background on her relationship with Paul and realise it was a whirlwind romance but I really enjoyed the scenes Belle offers between the pair. Charlotte seems to spend some time pondering their relationship—or more specifically, her feelings towards Paul—and knows she is embittered and scarred by her own alcoholic, drug-taking and negligent mother.
The body of the ‘stranger in the lake’ of course draws attention to Paul’s first wife Katherine and I wondered if (the doubt Charlotte feels) is what it’s actually like for someone who marries a widower. It’s come up in a couple of books I’ve read lately (The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter & Still Life by Val McDermid) and there’s a sense that you love ‘differently’ second time around. There’s a statement here in which Paul’s asserting that he wouldn’t have killed Katherine… that he would have spent the rest of his life with her, if he could. Which of course is confronting for Charlotte.
Because we to and fro from the present to the late 1990s I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s some past secret lurking. Not to mention the fact Paul won’t talk about past events involving his childhood besties.
For someone who tells us she thinks Paul is incapable of violence Charlotte becomes suspicious pretty quickly and turns on her husband with surprisingly speed. Of course Paul’s behaviour – disappearing after the woman’s body is found – is unbelievably and undeniably stupid. We’re kinda told ‘why’ but I wanted to grab him and force him to explain. Charlotte however seems content to just remain concerned. And suspicious.
And it’s here I found myself switching sides and aligning myself more with Paul.
The ‘secret’ when uncovered is not entirely as we suspect and I like that Belle throws in a few surprises, but again I found myself frustrated by Charlotte’s response and lack of understanding. For someone who grew up with a lot of grey she switches only between the black and the white.
This would likely be a good bookclub read because of some deductive leaps and the suspicion thrown around. Some of it’s warranted. Some perhaps not.
Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle was published in Australia by HQ Fiction and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.