Book Review: The Cry of the Lake


Book Review: The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler: You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover

Even before opening The Cry of the Lake, I felt a thrill of anticipation. Why? Because it has a standout cover. The kind of cover that summons you to click ‘buy now’ on Amazon, or reach for it on a bookseller’s display table.

But you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? Bear with me and I’ll try to explain. The cover has  a dark blue background with a floral pattern in a lighter shade of forget-me-not blue snaking across it, a bit like vintage wallpaper. It’s the kind of cover I’ve seen on books like The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry; a cover that says to me ‘literary fiction’. But take a closer look. I have terrible eyesight and didn’t see it at first but, lurking beneath the chintzy weave is something far more chilling:  a human skull. Now I know I can expect a thriller (which The Cry of the Lake most definitely is) and that it will be written in a literary style. That could be a heavy burden of expectation for a book. But Tyler pulls it off with great finesse.

The Cry of the Lake grips from the first page where we meet Grace and Lily, two of the main characters, calmly wrapping up a corpse with packing tape before dumping it in the lake. Story questions race through your mind. Who are these people, why are they doing this, who is the victim and why did they kill her? And why is the author revealing so much information so soon? But this is a psychological thriller and the mystery is not so much about the ‘who dunnit’ as the ‘why dunnit’ and this provides plenty of page-turning reading.

In The Cry of the Lake very little is above the surface. All is murky and buried in the past and the novel explores themes of identity and reinvention, notably the identities of central characters, Grace and Lily, which are especially slippery. The third narrator, Flo, is Lily’s school friend and, when the story opens, Grace is in a relationship with her father, Tom.

Seventeen year old, Lily  is an elective mute and, while her condition is rooted in past trauma, it gives her a small degree of protection because no one is sure how much she understands about what’s really going on. There are some dark and twisted incidents in the opening chapters as we explore the complexities in the relationship between Grace, Lily, Flo and Tom, and the local police officer, Annie, who just happens to be Tom’s ex-girlfriend. Prepare for some graphic details and gross, fishy smells. Just as you think you know where the plot is headed, a new set of characters from the past, notably the sinister Uncle Frank, are introduced. As the past is uncovered, the pace picks up and violence erupts. No one is safe.

The Cry of the Lake is a well-written, twisty debut with some unusual themes and a great sense of place. Highly recommended. Available form Amazon at this link:

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