The Lost Girls by Heather Young is a debut novel and a fine one. Told in two time periods and from two points of view, the novel examines the effects the past can have on the present.
In 1935, several families make their annual sojourn to their lake houses. The Evans girls (Lilith, 13, Lucy 11, and Emily 6) are excited about this intermission from their normal lives. The fathers stay in town and work during the week, then join their families on the weekend. For most of the children, the summers at the lake are full of fun and adventure and have the added benefit of being less closely supervised than during the school year.
This particular summer, however, will be different for the Evans girls. Lilith is growing up and leaving her sister Lucy behind. Emily, the youngest, is not much appreciated by the older girls and is tightly bound to her mother. By the end of the summer, Emily has disappeared and things will never be the same for the Evans family.
Sixty years later, Lucy, the last of the Evans sisters, finds one of her old notebooks and decides to record the events of the summer in 1935:
"I hold secrets that don't belong to me; secrets that would blacken the names of the defenseless dead. People I once loved. Better to let it be, I tell myself.
But this notebook reminds me it's not so simple as that. I owe other debts. I made other promises. And not all the defenseless dead, loved or not, are virtuous."
When Lucy dies, she leaves the lake house to her grand-niece, Justine. The journal is intended for Justine as well.
When Justine learns from Lucy's lawyer about her inheritance, it occurs to her that the house provides an opportunity to escape a relationship she hasn't completely acknowledged as oppressive. Impulsively and wasting no time, she packs up her daughters and treks from San Diego to the small Minnesota town and the isolated lake house.
Told from alternating points of view and encompassing two time periods, the story of what happened that summer is gradually revealed.
In the present, Justine struggles with her own problems--worries about her daughters, a dilapidated house that is not really winterized for the freezing Minnesota winters, a shortage of money, and concerns that the controlling boyfriend will follow.
Lucy's chapters attempt to truthfully relate the events of that summer in 1935.
Beautifully written, The Lost Girls kept me engaged from start to finish. Sometimes the characters frustrated me, but Young tells the story with enough background that even when you know characters are making the wrong decisions, you have an understanding of why.
I really liked both the prose and the story, and I'm hoping to hear more from Heather Young.
2016. 369 pages.
Murder on the Quai by Cara Black is actually a prequel to her series featuring Aimee Leduc. I have only read a couple of the books in this series, but I liked them.
"The world knows Aimée Leduc, heroine of 15 mysteries in thisNew York Times bestselling series, as a très chic, no-nonsense private investigator—the toughest and most relentless in Paris. Now author Cara Black dips back in time to reveal how Aimée first became a detective . . ."
Not all prequels are satisfactory, but I enjoyed finding out how Aimee met her partner Rene and acquired Miles Davis, her dog. It was also interesting to examine an earlier time in which technology like cell phones and computers were larger and less convenient.
Mystery/Crime. 2016. 328 pages.