Author Richard Laymon
The Lake one of several unpublished novels left behind by horror master Richard Laymon (Flesh, Funland, The Traveling Vampire Show, et al.) when he passed away in 2001 -- is an unabashedly erotic and brutally violent thriller that follows the lives of a single woman and her wild-child daughter and chronicles the unspeakable horrors they must face in order to survive a perceived family curse. When Leigh was a teenager in the '60s, she was an anti-establishment hippy with a talent for getting into trouble. So her parents decide to ship her off to Wisconsin to spend a summer with her aunt and uncle. The fearless -- and oversexed -- Californian quickly hooked up with a naive local and, during one of their secret trysts, witnessed his accidental death. Leigh became pregnant and now, 18 years later, she watches as her daughter, Deana, experiences a horror similar to her own. Deep in the woods with her boyfriend, Deana watches as he is murdered by a stranger. Are these two bizarre deaths related, and if so, how?
Review: The Lake is a chaotic and creepy horror that will likely have readers flipping through the pages out of pure curiosity to see what happens next. Laymon’s rumored forgotten tale is packed with a hatchet-wielding chef, a backwater mama’s boy, hormonal teens, a spooky old-folks home and a sicko serial killer hell bent on revenge. On the receiving end of all this terror are a mother and daughter. Yes, they experience an accidental death, blamed for murder, witness a boyfriend’s murder, are beat up, kidnapped, abused, conned, deceived, frightened, and nearly killed numerous times. All this would be an achievement if it were spread over several books instead of rolled into one. I understand this is fiction, but WHEW! Even I’m having a hard time buying it. To top it off, the women in the novel have a strange obsession with their breasts. They also take unrealistic risks (like jogging at night after being attacked), are too eager to mix sex after trauma and willingly give over easily to emotion and relationships. For example, after the traumatic loss of her boyfriend, Deana jumps quickly and trustingly into another relationship – may I add with lots of breast groping worthy of a bodice ripper. However, given the story line, murder, killer on the loose and physical and mental trauma, the insertion of sexual thoughts and actions by the victims is just plain weird and not in the good horror kind of way. I can’t imagine any woman relating or reacting like either of these female characters. In addition, I’m still trying to figure out why Nelson the killer one-eyed chef and the old-crone were even necessary? The inclusion of these characters is deliberately misleading and disjointed. A few scenes go nowhere and are completely unfinished. I’m still wondering, ‘What the hell was that about?’ Mommy Dearest (as the old-crone is called) should have ended up on the cutting room floor along with several other pages. I won’t give away the ending, but lets say more breast groping is involved. To add insult, the last chapter is followed up with a ‘hereafter.’ Now, I know some readers like this, but I can’t stand the approach. I don’t want pages of summary at the end of the book telling me what the characters eventually went on to do and how many children they had. Honestly, after 400 pages I shouldn’t need a summary to wrap it up. The one shining light in the tale and saving grace occurs during the telling of Leigh and Charlie’s story. This part of the novel had me intrigued and fully engaged in the tale. It was epic but unfortunately the second half of the novel slowly killed my wonderful memory.
*ARC provided courtesy of DP Mass Market Press ebook for review by NetGalley