1st in Series
Setting – A fictional Ohio town in the suburbs of Cleveland called Lakeview
Publisher: Level Best Books
Publication Date: June 20, 2023
Paperback page count: 250 pages
ISBN-10: 1685122779 / ISBN-13: 978-1685122775
Digital ASIN: B0BT3T8M1C
She stood on the water tower, looking at the skyline she had only observed from the ground. You really could see the whole town from up here. Funny how your whole life can fit into one 360-degree glance. Peering down at the ground, she was no longer able to see individual blades of grass, all of them blurring into a sea of perfect emerald green. To her right was the roof of Lakeview High School, looking small from this vantage point. She felt as though if she leaned over far enough, she could almost touch it. But that was ridiculous; the school had to be several hundred feet away. Her vision came in and out of focus as she swayed, thinking about her life, her past, her future... Reaching out her slender arm, she twirled her wrist. She could hardly wait for graduation when, everyone said, “real life” would begin. “I can't wait to get out of here,” her friends exclaimed, dreaming of big cities and even bigger lives in far-off places: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, anywhere but here. But she knew they would return, just like their parents, raising 2.5 kids with a Labradoodle and a balding husband in one of the best-little-suburbs in the country. Was it really so bad? She watched all these super-educated women who had given up their careers to stay home and clean up after the kids and drive to soccer practice, instead of changing the world as they'd so hopefully planned when plotting their escape years earlier. Was that her fate? Was that what awaited her now? Dozens of similar thoughts swirled and crashed like waves in front of her, mixing in a fantastic spray of colors, lights, and sounds.
The Water Tower, the debut novel by author Amy Young, is an intriguing and excellent kick-off to the new Lakeview Mysteries featuring Hollywood-star-on-hiatus Josephine “Josie” Ashbury. Although set in a small town with an amateur sleuth on the case, with all the earmarkings of a typical cozy mystery, Young’s story is darker than what is usually encountered in the genre, and readers can expect something somewhat creepier and more suspenseful.
I liked the main character, Josie Ashbury, a lot. Despite her sudden fame, she’s a hometown girl who made it big in films but retained a level-headed, humble attitude. She’s returned home to Lakeview to recuperate from an on-set breakdown after the long-term relationship with her costar dissolved. She has insomnia, and unusual periods pass without her being aware of her surroundings. She’s teaching drama classes at her old high school for a couple of periods a day to stay active and pass along what she’s learned about the business to students considering following in her footsteps. Many of the kids she grew up with are still in town, and she’s reconnected with some. I loved that she and her best girlfriends are still hanging out together and have kept up with each other’s lives.
Josie gets involved in the murder case for a couple of reasons: she finds the victim’s body, it’s one of her students, and the disposition of the case just doesn’t sit right with her. However, there’s someone else out there who is equally dissatisfied with the ruling and anonymously urges her on.
The author nailed the depiction of small-town life and dynamics, and I liked the suburban setting outside of Cleveland. She broadened the economic diversity of the town by characterizing it as home to many elite sports stars, politicians, and others with money to burn, as well as regular small-town residents.
The plot is darker and heavier than the usual cozy, beginning with the death of a popular high school student, the daughter of a local senator. Serious topics arise, such as teen suicide, drug use, the opioid crisis, and others. As the title indicates, an old water tower near the high school plays a role and seems to loom over the entire story. With this ever-present image and plenty of twists in the plot, I was immediately immersed in the tale and remained there until the very end.
I recommend THE WATER TOWER to mystery readers who enjoy a darker storyline than the usual cozy.
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