cover image The Drowning Kind

The Drowning Kind

Jennifer McMahon. Scout, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-982153-92-2

Tired mental health stereotypes and a dispiriting ending mar McMahon’s latest taut supernatural thriller (after The Invited). Jackie Metcalf has worked hard to distance herself from her family, especially after her grandmother left her Vermont estate to Jackie’s mercurial sister, Lexie. When Lexie drowns in the house’s pool—just as their aunt had decades before—everyone suspects she took her own life, but Jackie soon learns the situation is much more complicated. Interwoven with this contemporary story line is one beginning in 1929: 37-year-old Ethel Monroe struggles with infertility, but finds hope in stories of the healing powers of a natural spring attached to a Vermont hotel, despite locals’ warnings about the spring’s dark powers. McMahon’s skills in crafting captivating plots and building suspense shine as the connection between the two threads slowly becomes clear, but the story ends with more fizzle than bang. More disappointing is the way the challenges and traumas of complex mental illnesses are flattened into mere annoyances; Lexie, who has bipolar disorder, is broadly painted as a manic, flaky artist, and her struggles are portrayed primarily through the effect they have had on Jackie’s life. Still, readers who prioritize atmosphere and intricate plots will be engaged. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Apr.)