"The Lost Women of Lost Lake" by Ellen Hart: Book Review

"The Lost Women of Lost Lake" by Ellen Hart
Minotaur, 320 pp., $25.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James

Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is escaping her 24/7 business world with some R&R at her parents' cabin on one of the hundreds of lakes in northern Minnesota.

She's brought along her beloved dog, Mouse, as well as the man who took a bullet for her, private investigator A.J. Nolan.

While Nolan convalesces (read: fishes) and Mouse adores them both, Jane mulls Nolan's offer to bail on her two restaurants and join his P.I. firm, as partner with an eye toward taking over someday soon. He's even had business cards printed (she can work under his license), so she can get a literal handle on the job.

Then-- and far from the first time-- "Cordelia Interruptus" occurs.

Jane's best bud back in The Cities has been hastily summoned upstate to sub for the ailing director of a community theater production at a resort town on another lake.

Won't Jane pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top tag along? (The cherry being Cordelia's new bad ride, a cherry-red Mercedes convertible.)

After all, they'll have the opportunity to hook up with their old friends, the ailing director (who's also a professional playwright) and her wife, whose great-grandfather built and nourished the lodge around which the resort town grew.

When Nolan assures Jane he'll be fine with just Mouse for company, Jane trips off with Cordelia, neither one realizing that the real drama will be played offstage, as the director/playwright and one of her longtime friends, a local store owner, are about to be outed for a crime committed more than forty years ago.

Both women managed to escape apprehension, living off their new identities, lost in the remoteness of Lost Lake, Minnesota.

While the past is unraveling for those two former accomplices, the director/playwright's teenaged nephew (by marriage to the lodge owner) finds his way back to Lost Lake, unhappy with his vituperatively combative parents and their recent move to St. Louis.

In one short year (much longer, naturally, for a teenager), circumstances have changed dramatically between the nephew and his best friend, between the nephew and his girlfriend, and among them as a group.

This latest mystery from Ellen Hart often seems to play out like a Greek (or Shakespearean) tragedy, with a purge of diseased secrets, both old and new.

Small wonder that the author's Jane Lawless series now runs to nineteen volumes, with an exceptionally good entry such as this-- stellarly produced on all levels-- a literary joyride in Cordelia's red convertible.

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