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Moon Lake


Moon Lake

Joe R. Lansdale is one of the most versatile authors working today. He can write horror stories, mysteries, science fiction and thrillers while either firmly ensconcing his latest tale in one genre or effortlessly blurring the lines between two or more of them. MOON LAKE is an example of the latter, a work of historical fiction that combines mystery and thriller elements with a love story and even some horror to boot. It is also a coming-of-age tale, at least at the beginning.

"MOON LAKE contains plenty of Lansdale’s trademark elements, including colorful turns of phrase, plot twists and some of the strangest characters you’ll ever come across."

Set in the east Texas town of New Long Lincoln, the book begins with 14-year-old Daniel Russell, who narrowly escapes his father’s murder-suicide plan that involves driving their car into Moon Lake. Moon Lake was formed when the original town of Long Lincoln was deliberately submerged in water with a number of its residents still present, either by accident or by design. Daniel’s mother had disappeared some months before, an incident that apparently led to the elder Russell’s suicide. In the aftermath, Daniel is temporarily placed with a local family until his mother’s sister returns from abroad, at which point he will join her in another city. Her passing a decade later coincides with Daniel being summoned back to New Long Lincoln.

It seems that Moon Lake has evaporated from a drought, and the car that doomed Daniel and his father to an all-but-certain death has been recovered. In addition to the body of Daniel’s father, the vehicle contains a surprise in the trunk: a dead woman, who is assumed to be his mother. But Daniel is not so sure as the corpse lacks her distinctive mark. Also, it appears that a local graveyard has been pillaged, with dead bodies placed in the trunks of other previously submerged cars. During his absence from New Long Lincoln, Daniel became a journalist and penned a novel of some renown. This impresses a number of the hometown folks, including Ronnie Candles, a police officer who happens to be a member of the family that took Daniel in on that fateful night 10 years ago.

The two of them, all grown up, become involved as Daniel begins a journalistic investigation concerning the bodies found in the trunks. His research leads him to the reasons that Long Lincoln was flooded, as well as the motives behind the actions of the council members who have ruled the town with a collective iron fist. Daniel, Ronnie and others are warned off of the investigation but persist, aided by an enigmatic ally who has been part of the town folklore for decades. However, the council members have a powerful supporter of their own whom Daniel and Ronnie may not be able to overcome.

MOON LAKE contains plenty of Lansdale’s trademark elements, including colorful turns of phrase, plot twists and some of the strangest characters you’ll ever come across. Even at this late date, he shows no signs of rust or slowing down.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 2, 2021

Moon Lake
by Joe R. Lansdale

  • Publication Date: June 22, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316540641
  • ISBN-13: 9780316540643