Review ~ Cemetery Lake

This book was provided to me by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Cover via Goodreads

A fast-paced crime thriller from the author of international bestsellers The Cleaner and The Killing Hour, Cemetery Lake will keep you guessing until the last page.

What began as a routine exhumation of a suspected murder victim quickly turns complicated for private investigator Theodore Tate . . .

Theo Tate is barely coping with life since his world was turned upside down two years ago. As he stands in the cold and rainy cemetery, overseeing the exhumation, the lake opposite the graveyard begins to release its grip on the murky past. When doubts are raised about the true identity of the body found in the opened coffin, the case takes an even more sinister turn. Tate knows he should walk away and let his former colleagues in the police deal with it, but against his better judgement he takes matters into his own hands.

With time running out and a violent killer on the loose, will Tate manage to stay one step ahead of the police, or will the secrets that he thought were so deeply buried be unearthed? (via Goodreads)

Paul Cleave is from the other side of the pond. The big pond. The New Zealand author’s novels are happily getting more attention lately in the US with Atria Books’ re-release of his catalog. Cemetery Lake, Cleave’s third novel, was originally published in 2008 and is the first of three novels (thus far) that feature cop-turned-private-detective Theo Tate.

Roughly, there are three aspect to this novel which for me worked in varying degrees. I’ll address them in reverse order.

The first is the setting. All of Cleave’s novels are set in Christchurch, New Zealand. Being a native, he obviously knows the area well. It offers an interesting combination of urban, suburban, and wilderness areas. Unfortunately, when Tate laments that Christchurch is “broken,” I don’t quite believe it. Sure, there are loopholes in the justice system. There is corruption. Is it any worse than any other big city? I’m not sure that it’s shown to be. I could be jaded. It might also be that Cleave’s first two novels, also set in Christchurch, better illustrate the ideal versus the (fictional) reality of the city. Perhaps by Cemetery Lake, the idea has become more of a trope that readers of the first books understand better than a novice Cleave/Christchurch reader.

Secondly, there’s the plot. It careens along. It takes hard left turns and doubles back on itself. It goes places that have no in-roads. On one hand, I found myself vowing to take a break from reading at the end of a chapter only to find that I’d read far into the next without realizing it. On the other hand, occasionally I found myself really questioning Tate’s decisions. I had to turn a blind eye to the possibility that the character might be acting in the best interest of a plot twist. And I was willing to do this because…

Theo Tate is a great character. The man has problems, and maybe it’s to Cleave’s credit that Tate doesn’t always make the best decision. I have a soft spot for characters that are doing the best they can given their circumstances, even if they’re suffering from the consequences of their own poor judgement. I want to read more of Theo Tate. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered such a well drawn flawed hero.

Cemetery Lake will be released by Atria Books  on June 18, 2013. (Hey, that’s today!)

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Why did I choose to read this book? By a New Zealand author.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes. A great read.
Craft Lessons: Don’t be afraid to take a hard left, plot-wise. Just make sure it’s warranted.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: NetGalley

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