Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Lake House' Cleverly Unites Two Missing-Person Cases, Decades Apart

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Lake House' Cleverly Unites Two Missing-Person Cases, Decades Apart

Article excerpt

On Midsummer's Eve in 1933 in Cornwall, a little boy disappeared from his nursery on the night of his parents' annual party. Despite 300 guests, no one saw anyone or anything suspicious.

Theo Edevane was never found. The family estate of Loeanneth was abandoned, and locals talked about the baby spirited away by fairies.

Seventy years later, a detective constable in a lot of trouble happens upon the abandoned estate in Kate Morton's fifth novel, The Lake House. Loeanneth "sat deep in a dell, surrounded by thick, briar-tangled woods, just like houses must in fairy tales."

"The Lake House" offers plenty of old-fashioned reading pleasure, with dual plotlines unfolding decades apart. At nearly 500 pages, it's a big book with ample room for readers who like to disappear into a story. And with a writer as one of the central characters, Morton offers some sly commentary on just how one goes about constructing a satisfying mystery.

Sadie Sparrow is on leave - and her career is on life support - after leaking details about the case of a missing woman to the media. She's staying with her grandfather and trying to evade his questions about the reason for her visit. A deeply unfanciful person, Sadie has little patience for the supernatural as an explanation for a missing child.

"No doubt about it, the fairy-tale element was one of the trickiest elements of the case. Cold cases were always a challenge, but this one had the added folklore factor," she thinks. "Sadie didn't go in for presentiments - there was no need for a sixth sense when the other five were being properly employed."

Her parents weren't the sort to read their children fairy stories at bedtime. "Regardless," Morton writes, "Sadie had absorbed enough as a citizen of the world to know that people went missing in fairy tales, that there were usually deep dark woods involved. People went missing often enough in real life, too, woods or not."

Theo's mother, father, and three older sisters - shown preserved in a picnic photo of Edwardian tranquility - are concealing secrets behind an impenetrable wall of upper-class silence. His sisters, one of whom becomes a mystery novelist in the vein of P. …

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