The first book in the Lakebridge Cycle from Natasha Troop, Lakebridge: Spring, is an old-fashioned thriller, the kind of book that understands it takes more than just blood and gore to make a great story - it takes an interesting premise to hook readers, a unique setting to orient them within the story, well-developed characters to make them care about what happens next, and an author who truly enjoys spinning a tale to bring it all together.
The first thing that strikes you about the book is that everybody, including the moose wandering by the bridge in question, has a story to tell. Natasha certainly is not afraid to spread out her viewpoints and experiment with some unusual narrative choices. It's a bit of a quirky approach, in a David Lynch kind of way, but it really works.
The second thing that strikes you about the novel is the language. I've seen other reviewers complain that Natasha is too long-winded, or too free with her punctuation (or lack thereof), but her style of narration comes right back to the idea of being an old-fashioned thriller. This isn't a book written to be digested a paragraph at a time between calls, chats, or emails on your smartphone. This is a story to become lost in, to immerse yourself in, and to really 'hear' inside your head. Yes, there are some long passages, but if you read them aloud (or inside your head), rather than just scanning them, you'll quickly come to appreciate that Natasha isn't just writing a book, she's telling you a story.
The third thing that strikes you about Lakebridge: Spring is balance of emotions represented in the story. While there's something to be said for unrelenting tension on the big screen, there's a big difference between the 90 minute experience of watching a movie and the 4 or 5 hours involved in reading a novel. Natasha offers up plenty of tension here, and some scenes of high drama, but she smartly uses moments of humour (both subtle and absurd) to give the reader time to breathe.
The last thing that strikes you about the novel is the one thing I will say very little about - and that is the story itself. Natasha has crafted a clever little tale here, one with deep roots in the history and mythology of the town. What we have here is an almost-perfect, self-contained story of horror in a small town. While there are more than enough lingering questions to compel the reader into reading the sequel, Lakebridge: Summer, it doesn't feel like we've been intentionally left hanging.
If you're in the mood for something to read and enjoy, the kind of book to linger over on a warm summer's night, then give this a try.
[Reviewed by Sally]