November 17, 2011 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Secrets from the past

‘The Lost Women of Lost Lake’
By Ellen Hart
Minotaur
$25.99
320 pages

Cordelia Thorn figured she would lend a quick hand.

Tessa Cornell, Cornelia’s old friend in northern Minnesota, had taken a tumble and hurt her leg. Because Tessa was directing the community play, somebody needed to finish the job while she was healing, so Cornelia volunteered and invited her best friend, Jane Lawless, along. Jane, a restaurateur and part-time PI, was still mourning the death of her long-time partner, and a trip north would do her good.

That’s the setting that leads to death and danger when the past comes looking for the two women in the new novel “The Lost Women of Lost Lake” by Ellen Hart.

Though Tessa was happy to have help with the play, she didn’t need any company — particularly not some PI-wannabe.

Not long before she fell, Tessa got a call from Lyndie LaVassar and it wasn’t good news: a secret was about to be loose in Lost Lake. The past, it seemed, had caught up with the two women and was about to destroy their lives as well as the reputations of several people in town.

Jonah Ivorsen had enough of St. Louis. He’d hated to move anyhow, so when he decided to hitchhike to Lost Lake, he was sure his aunt Jill and Jill’s wife, Tessa, would let him stay with them. Jonah was excited to be home and to reconnect with friends, especially his girl, Emily, who said she’d love him forever.

But then a body was discovered and another one followed it fast. Emily was hiding something, the authorities were zeroing in on a mysterious fire and Tessa was obviously lying to everybody.

Could Jane Lawless sort things out before someone else died?

Oh, how I love books with Jane Lawless in them. Jane is an unlikely heroine and somewhat reluctant private investigator who doesn’t seem to want her hobby to turn into work, yet there’s a will-she-make-it-permanent story thread in this book that’s satisfactorily solved. There’s also a possible romance angle here that teases readers nicely.

But much as I love author Ellen Hart’s main character, the supporting cast in “The Lost Women of Lost Lake” almost all needed to take a dive. I had to work to keep my eyes from rolling, not only because of the clichéd peripheral characters but also for the clichéd things they said. Triteness definitely taints this otherwise fine mystery.

Fans of this series should be able to overlook these faults but if you’re not a fan yet, start with another book. For you, “The Lost Women of Lost Lake” will not be looked upon swimmingly.

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