Lost Lake by Phillip Margolin


Pros: reasonably intriguing story of corruption

Cons: Repetitive.  Repetitious.  Repetitive.

Phillip Margolin usually delivers some pretty good books. But Lost Lake lost its way.

Is Dan a super nice guy, friendly neighbor, excellent community citizen? Or is “Dan” just a cover? Perhaps he’s really a highly trained murderer who’s been in hiding for the past 20 years, holding onto secrets that the very highest government officials will kill to keep quiet.

Lawyer Ami Vergano doesn’t know what to think. She hasn’t known Dan for very long, but he sure seems like a nice enough fellow. He spends a lot of time with Ami and her young son and she’s never felt the least bit unsafe around him. But things change at her son’s Little League game. Some parents get in a tiff with the coach and Dan steps in to calm the situation. But Dan’s way of calming the situation was to act with lightning speed, causing major injury. Let’s just say, he acted “above and beyond” what was called for.

Taken into custody for his actions, Dan’s story just doesn’t add up. Worse, there’s no record of Dan existing prior to a few years ago. No fingerprints on file, despite his claim that he was in the military. Just who is Dan and why doesn’t he seem to “exist”?

This is the story Margolin presents and I admit I was intrigued. To get to the bottom of who Dan is, we need to go back in time – 35 years – and I enjoyed the parts of the story that took place in the past. Indeed, I thought I was in for a very interesting ride, as we read about the young man, his girlfriend, and her father – all of whose lives will intertwine over the decades.

But Lost Lake lost me about half-way through.

Part of the problem is that the characters we’re supposed to like continually make ridiculous decisions. Ami knows she has no business anywhere near this case – she’s not a criminal lawyer and she’s been very close to the defendant. Yet she can’t bring herself to walk away, even though she could very well compromise the entire case.

Dan’s ex-girlfriend is another character who makes ridiculous decisions. But in her case, she’s been doing so her entire life. The worst is spouting off accusations against her father, without one shred of evidence. And while she may be perfectly correct about some of the allegations, others are so far-fetched that her entire story becomes suspect. She comes off sounding like a raving lunatic, instead of a rational woman with a story that’s believable.

But the biggest problem with the book is the repetition. Several characters tell the same story, multiple times, to multiple people. It’s like Margolin finished telling the story, but the book was too short. So he had portions of it repeated just to fill it in a bit. For instance, Dan tells his entire story to Ami. Later, Dan’s ex tells the same exact story to Ami. Same details covered, I didn’t need to read it again. Later, Ami repeats the story to the authorities. It makes for dull reading when portions are repeated, with no new facts obtained.

On the other hand, there’s a courtroom scene at the end of the book that was pretty exciting, and the ultimate “reveal” was handled very well.

So – Lost Lake is an “ok” book – nothing more, nothing less. No mystery for us to solve. Not particularly “thrilling”. But a decent story of decades-old corruption and the lengths people will go to protect their secrets.

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