September 29, 2019

Nick Scorza: "People of the Lake" (ARC Review)

Title: People of the Lake [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Nick Scorza [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Supernatural
Year: 2019
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Puts a fresh spin on some classic supernatural/horror tropes, with a couple of surprises. Explores grief and daughter/father dynamics.
Cons: Employs quite a number of such tropes. Side characters feel a bit underdeveloped. The final confrontation is a tad over the top.
WARNING! Some gruesome deaths.
Will appeal to: Those who like classic mysteries in a contemporary setting. Those who like sibling stories.

Blurb:  Sixteen-year-old Clara Morris is facing an awkward summer with her father in the tiny upstate town of Redmarch Lake. Clara's relationship with her parents - and with life in general - has been strained since she lost her twin sister, Zoe, when the girls were eight. She soon finds that Redmarch Lake, where her father's family has lived for generations, is a very unusual place. The townspeople live by odd rules and superstitions. The town's young people are just as odd and unfriendly as their parents. Clara manages to befriend the one boy willing to talk to an outsider, but he disappears during a party in the woods. The next day, he is found dead in the lake under mysterious circumstances. The townspeople all treat this as a tragic accident. Clara isn't buying it, but she doesn't know what to do until she receives a mysterious note hinting at murder - a note written in the language she shared with her twin sister, Zoe. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: this title was up for grabs on NetGalley (in the Read Now section). Thanks to Skyhorse Publishing/Sky Pony for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


If you're looking for books that employ a minimal dose of tropes, here's your caveat: People of the Lake is not one of those books. The good piece of news is, it uses them to its best advantage, and throws in a couple of twists that - combined with the sisterly bond/grief theme, and a relatable heroine who doesn't try too hard and isn't your usual special snowflake - alone would be enough to make POTL worth reading. There's a lot in this book that feels familiar: a mysterious and creepy place (albeit a lake and not your usual forest), a virtually gated community, a string of gruesome murders swept under the rug, a headstrong teen with a strained relationship with her parents, a couple of reluctant sidekicks, a love interest, and other minor things. But the way Scorza weaves it all together and incorporates the deceased-twin theme into the story makes all the difference - along with the fresh mythology he builds his story on. [...]


I can't talk too much about this aspect of the story because I would enter spoiler territory, but I loved the bond between Clara and Zoe, and the way the author depicted the peculiar brand of grief that is losing a twin. Also, the mystery behind Zoe's demise and her alleged messages to Clara was the most interesting aspect of this book for me, because it went nowhere I expected it to. Clara herself is a character in whose head I enjoyed being. She's loyal and brave, strives to be a good friend and daughter (even if that doesn't always turn out right, but I could understand her frustration - with both her parents, if for different reasons), but will go the extra mile for answers. The side characters were a little blander, and there was the mandatory fast romance ("I love you" [...] "I love you, too" - seriously? after what, a few days?), but surprisingly, it didn't bug me that much. At least there was no love triangle in sight LOL.


To be honest, I'm sort of ambivalent about the final denouement. The supernatural aspect of the story was quite fresh and interesting, especially the way it tied in with Zoe, yet I couldn't help but feeling that it was a bit over the top - especially if compared to its slow building and all the creepy tension. Also, even if under a spell (or a curse) of sorts, I couldn't totally buy that all the townsfolk would passively accept whatever happened as inevitable, and even more, wouldn't be able to shake free from that evil influence and actually leave the place (though Mr Morris' attempt shows that leaving is ultimately useless). But I'm probably too jaded by now 😉. I'm sure most supernatural fans will eat it up.

(Note: I was able to spot a couple of typos, but I don't know if this was the definitive version or it still had to undergo a round of copy editing. Also, "letting out a breath I didn't even know I was holding" is a phrase I always hope not to stumble upon ever again...but apparently, it's a hard kill 😫).

For more Thriller/Mystery books click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.


  1. This sounds good! Yeah the supernatural elements sometimes work and sometimes don't in a story like this, I guess, but it does sound deliciously creepy. Nice atmospheric cover too- I may have to get this!

    1. Welcome to my "underhyped books" world LOL. Let me know if you do!

  2. This one sounded interested based on the blurb, but it sounds a bit too... typical (?) based on what you've written. Granted, I've read a lot of mystery-thrillers, so it might be because of that. I'm glad that the tropes were used well, and the author added some cool twists, but ultimately, I doubt I'd pick this up.

    Also, this part of you review "("I love you" [...] "I love you, too" - seriously? after what, a few days?)" made laugh, haha. I (usually) hate when a romance develops that fast.

    1. I know you're a seasoned mystery/thriller reader, so you might not be the best audience for this one. LOL, the romance was super-fast, at least when it comes to the use of the L word. I wouldn't have minded it if they hadn't proclaimed their love for each other after a week or so...

  3. I legit ran into that phrase in BOTH books I am currently reading so... I feel you! This does sound pretty interesting though! And I can even handle a trope or eight as long as the payoff is worth it! Though insta-love.... that is a rough one for me to accept! Great review, glad it was mostly good!

    1. Yikes, twice?!? It sounds unreal!

      Quote: "And I can even handle a trope or eight as long as the payoff is worth it!"
      LOL. I'm not against tropes per se - I suppose it's next to impossible not to use ANY - but as long as they're twisted and well handled, even eight of them don't sound so bad 😉.

  4. I love twins so much... but I'm kinda over the whole grief theme. I'm just so tired of it. This does sound creepy but I also feel like its familiar too? It's an odd makeup. I'm sorry the end didn't do it for you though. That's the worst!! ❤️

    1. Part of it did work, so it's not so bad 😉.

      I don't usually read grief books, but I did like this one (maybe because, while pivotal, grief wasn't the only theme). Then again, I suppose there are tons of twins/grief books around, and they may get old after a while.

  5. Well it's cool this uses tropes to its advantage! It's so great that while this feels familiar, it's told in a different way! Good to know that the final denoument will probably work for most supernatural fans, even if it felt a bit over the top. Excellent review!

    1. Thank you! I always try to be fair, because there are many levels of reading and even more types of readers, so I try to steer the right people to the right book even when I have some reservations about it.


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