Written by Ed Lynskey — Lake Charles is a distinctly southern take on noir fiction that combines a strong sense of place with a cast of ordinary people struggling against the circumstances they face. The author relies on some personal experience and a vivid imagination to create a time and place that oozes with class struggle, corruption, personal loss and intermittent hopelessness. Still, the characters are sympathetic and worthy of your attention and compassion.
The story begins with a simple fishing trip. Brendan Fishback, his twin sister Edna and her estranged husband Cobb (who is also Brendan’s friend) head out toward Lake Charles. Cobb and Edna’s marriage has faltered and Brendan is making an attempt to help them reconcile. He is also seeking some respite from his main worry – he’s awaiting trial for the death of Ashleigh, a sultry girl from the nearby town of Yellow Snake.
The mood is set with an ugly lake, unfit for fishing, and bickering among the friends. Edna leaves the two boys in a huff and disappears. When she doesn’t return, their search yields nothing before nightfall. That night, events begin to take Brendan through murder, alcohol, drug trafficking, dirty hotels, deception, betrayal and revenge.
The hunt for Edna becomes intertwined with the mystery of Ashleigh’s murder as drug agents and the history of Umpire, the Tennessee town where the story’s set, add to the clues. Meanwhile Brendan is haunted by dreams of a dead Ashleigh taunting him and urging him to find her killer.
Lynskey does a masterful job of keeping the story moving and focusing on the characters during all the twists. Brendan is well-meaning, but beset with bad luck and poor choices. He is driven by anger over what happened to Edna, confusion about the night of Ashleigh’s death, longing for a father he never knew, and revenge for what is taken from him during his search. What is created through Brendan’s eyes, and Lynskey’s prose, is a powerful story that combines all the anguish and tension of the setting with the personal search for family and truth that rages within Brandon. The result is a wild ride that is worth reading for any lover of crime fiction.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars