cover image Summit Lake

Summit Lake

Charlie Donlea. Kensington, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0098-8

Horrible things happen in Conlea’s uneven debut, starting with the murder of first-year law student Becca Eckersley in her family’s stilt house in the Blue Ridge Mountains tourist town of Summit Lake, N.C. Penn Courtney, the editor of Events Magazine, assigns reporter Kelsey Castle to dig into the story, which is starting to receive national attention. Penn’s ulterior motive is to allow Kelsey additional time to recover from a recent trauma. Despite the Eckersley family’s efforts to obfuscate matters, Kelsey explores Becca’s history, including her bonds with three fellow students and a faculty member at George Washington University. Refreshingly, Kelsey stresses repeatedly that she isn’t trying to solve the murder or get in the way of the professionals assigned to do so. Most of the other people involved, however, take a detached, almost academic approach toward the case. The reader gets little sense that anyone is mourning Becca. Agent: Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency. (Feb.)