cover image At the Water's Edge

At the Water's Edge

Sara Gruen. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-52323-3

Gruen%E2%80%99s (Water for Elephants) riveting fifth novel follows Philadelphia socialite Madeline Hyde; her husband, Ellis; and his best friend, Hank, on a quest to Loch Ness in January 1945 as they seek proof of the legendary monster, which Ellis%E2%80%99s father allegedly photographed 13 years earlier. Once the trio is ensconced in the tiny village of Drumnadrochit, Hank and Ellis begin disappearing for days at a time, leaving Maddie alone back at the inn with no ration card, no practical skills, and no emergency gear. She soon bonds with the locals%E2%80%94even Angus, the inn%E2%80%99s brooding, standoffish owner%E2%80%94and her newfound friendships help her cope with household chores and air raids alike. As the days drag on, Maddie begins to uncover truths about her family, as well as secrets about Ellis, that force her to reimagine her entire life as she knows it. A slow start gives way to mystery upon mystery, building to a gripping climax. Though some aspects, particularly an ambiguous brush with the supernatural, are a little pedestrian, Gruen%E2%80%99s beautiful setting and deeply sympathetic characters ensure a memorable read for new and returning fans alike. (Mar.)