Memories are like water. Some float on the surface bright and clear. Some lie deeper - blurred by time and distance. Others rest far from the light in the depths of the darkness. These memories are best forgotten. At the bottom of Asylum Lake the unremembered are growing restless.
After the sudden death of his wife, Brady Tanner moves to the small Michigan town where he spent summers as a youth. But he soon learns that small towns can be stained by memories…and secrets too. As Brady is drawn into unearthing the secrets of the town and of the abandoned psychiatric hospital on the shores of Asylum Lake, he discovers a new love in an old friend. But there is an evil presence lurking beneath the waters of the lake. What is the source of this evil–and what does it want with Brady Tanner?
I was intrigued immediately by R. A. Evans’s novel’s synopsis. It sounded right up my street. And to begin with, it was. The protagonist Brady Tanner is a likeable character, and easy to get on side with, through flashbacks the reader starts to learn that there is something wrong happening at Asylum Lake, as it’s known by the locals, and as Brady remembers moments in his youth, and stories about family members, it becomes clear that things have not been right in the town near the lake for some time, and a tone is set that is suitably creepy and dark, where you are not sure what is going on or where this story could lead.
However, there are many issues with the way the book is written which start to get in the way. Firstly, it is riddled with typos, accidental repeats of words, some awful formatting, which actually gets in the way of the story very literally near the start, and at one point a character even changes name. None of this is a deal breaker, and in most cases is easy to dismiss, but the problems continue, or at least they did for me.
As I got about a third of the way through, I started to feel like I was in Inception. The story kept going further back in time, through ever more flashbacks, and frankly it got confusing, especially when not all of the shifts in time were signposted, not to mention the fact that I started wondering what the relevance of the present day narrative was, it spent so long in the past. It does wrap up its timelines fairly well in the end if you stick with it, in a mostly entirely satisfying manner.
The ending however, is where I found my other big issues with the story. The tone seems to shift about three quarters of the way through. The tense, evil atmosphere that Evan’s has been building up to that point disappears almost entirely, to become more of what feels like an adventure with wise cracking do-gooders, and it’s really strange. I found it quite off-putting. A scene with a skeleton, that should be scary, is anything but, and it’s a shame, as if the initial tone had been maintained, it would have delivered more chills.
It’s also an ending that seems very rushed, and left me thinking ‘Oh, is that it?’ and I had quite a few questions floating about in my head. It deliberately withholds answers in order to push its sequel Grave Undertakings, and while I’m quite happy for stories to lead into sequels, this one just stops dead and says 'Buy the sequel if you want to know what happens.’ It’s like the way the last Harry Potter film was cut in two, only without the built in fan-base, and it feels a bit cheap.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and intermittently I did. It has some great scenes, the characters Evans creates are likeable, and mostly believable, and the idea and setting are interesting too, but constant shifts in time, inconsistent tone, and a cheap ending all left me a bit disappointed. It’s not bad, but it is not what I was expecting, and I’m afraid it left me with no intention of getting the sequel.
Overall Rating: 5/10