Give Out Creek by J.G. Toews - Stella Mosconi with husband Joe and sons, Matt (9) and Nicky (7), has moved from Vancouver back to her hometown of Nelson, British Columbia. They live in a nice cabin on Kootenay Lake and she bicycles into town each day for her work as a journalist with the Nelson Times.
Stella has had a lifelong fear of water. Swimming lessons were restricted to a pool. Now living on a lake she is trying to work through her fear. Solo canoeing does not go well and leaves her shaken.
On the way to work she sees an empty rowboat upon the lake. Stella is deeply upset a short time later when, on her way to interview the police, she sees her friend, Lillian Fenniwick, dead in the boat. She instinctively wants to rearrange Lillian’s dress which has twisted above her knees.
Lillian was a retired lawyer. At 64 she had severe macular degeneration which left her barely able to read. She had just enough sight to be able to row. The previous night she asserted her independence to her housekeeper, Nina Huber, by insisting she would row over to the home of her friend, Vanessa Levitt.
Stella’s former high school classmate, Ben McKearn, now a sergeant in the Nelson Police Department leads the investigation. Each remembers the other from 20 years earlier and teenage dreams.
Stella, Lillian and Vanessa were members of a monthly book club. Retired life coach turned financial adviser, Henry Sutton, was the sole male member of the club.
The book club also becomes a very modest investment club with members investing $20 to $100 with Sutton. They are intent on “socially responsible investing”. However, some members privately invest much more.
Among her friends no one suspects Lillian was murdered.
And then a needle is found in the water near Lillian’s cabin and the pathologist performing the autopsy re-examines the body and finds an injection mark and everything changes.
Creating suspicion are an unknown aspect of the relationship between Lillian and Nina and the provisions of Lillian’s will.
There is little marital bliss for several of the ladies of the club.
Nina was a challenging character for me. Drab in appearance and a pessimist there is not a bit of spark to her. I appreciate she provides a contrast to the bright and lovely ladies of the club but I found it hard to be engaged by Nina.
Stella is a good woman with a strong sense of duty. Coupled with an equally strong curiosity she is driven to find out what happened.
The development of relationships between the characters came later than I would have liked and I would have appreciated more.
The issue of who benefits from the valuable home and property left by the widowed Lillian was only explored late in the book. I do not want to provide a spoiler nor be too technical as a lawyer but the scenario set out was not plausible to me.
The pace dragged for awhile but picked up well in the final third of the book. Toews is good at plotting.
Give Out Creek is a nice mystery.