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D. Z. Church
Booth Island
D. Z. Church, author
It’s been nine years since Boothe Treader summered at her family’s island. Twelve since her brother died on its rocky shore. She has never forgiven him for abandoning her, her parents for divorcing, or the dark-eyed boy who watched him drown. The stranger, the killer, no punishment that let him live could ever be enough. So, she wished him dead each passing day. Now, her mother has deeded her the island. Her dead brother is beckoning her back to visit. And old friends are lining up to welcome her back — or are they?
Church’s (Perfidia) thrilling mystery follows twenty-something Boothe Treader as she revisits the Ontario lake where she summered as a child — and the site of her brother Roy’s death 12 years earlier. Although the death was ruled an accident, most locals — including Boothe’s old friends Mike, Meg, and Penny, who all affectionately call Boothe “Boo” — agree that Finn Sturdevant, an outsider to the tight-knit community, caused Roy’s head injury and eventual drowning. Roy’s spirit haunts Boo as she once again spends time on Booth Island, the tiny piece of family land that she now owns. In trying to move past Roy’s death, Boo uncovers unexpected secrets, learns of the sinister, century-long history between the community’s families, and encounters Finn himself.

Readers will be intrigued by the town’s air of mystery and Boo’s conviction, as odd occurrences mount, that she’s being gaslit. Boo takes a winding path that explores her family’s violent Prohibition roots and leads her inadvertently to discover the truth about the night that Roy died. The history, particularly as it relates to present-day events, can at times be tricky to follow, but Church’s hints of a coming revelation (clues include a bloody bandana and a Photoshopped image of Roy) push the reader forward. While the prose at times can be choppy, Church crafts a mystery rich with unease and an exhilarating climax while also offering a bold portrait of Canadian lake life.

The most enthralling element of the mystery is the way in which Church stirs reader suspicion toward many characters before ultimately unmasking a villain. Boo doesn’t know who to trust, and neither will the reader. This conflict intensifies when she develops romantic feelings for two different men, both potentially suspects. The wild, dark setting, unavenged death, and complicated history make Boo’s trip an appealing mystery full of suspense and intrigue.

Takeaway: Mystery readers will be hooked by the unresolved death and quiet intrigue of this lakeside thriller.

Great for fans of: Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Lying.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B