Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Richard Laymon
Published by Leisure Horror
What a disappointing end for the legacy of Richard Laymon. The Lake is the final book that was left for publication after the author’s untimely passing in 2001, but unfortunately it’s easily the weakest writing the man has done since his early days.
The story begins, as most Laymon books seem to, with a woman in peril. In this case it’s 18-year-old Deana West, who’s out with her boyfriend Allen looking to find a secluded spot to create the beast with two backs. Before they get much further than the heavy petting stage, however, they notice their secluded spot has attracted an unwelcome visitor so they make to leave. Unfortunately, said visitor has a bit more than spying in mind, and he ends up killing Allen and chasing down Deana. She climbs a tree and waits to be found.
She’s eventually rescued, and a few days later a pair of investigators show up at Deana’s house to discuss the incident with her and her mother, Leigh. Leigh takes an instant liking to Mace, a detective with all sorts of rippling muscles and a take-charge attitude, and soon the two start a love affair. Deana’s quick to get over Allen when she meets a young man who’s new to the block while out searching for the man that killed her boyfriend one night (one of many scenes that confounds all boundaries of logic), and they start things up as well.
In between all these hook-ups, we learn that when Leigh was 18, she took a lover while summering with her aunt and uncle on a large lake in the Midwest (hence the title). After just a few meetings he was killed in a horrific accident that supposedly still haunts Leigh to this day, but she really doesn’t seem too affected by it, to be honest. We also learn the identity of the killer of Deana’s boyfriend, who is then taken by some strange underground people in yet another scene that makes little to no sense, mainly because it has no effect on the rest of the story and is never brought up again. He’s found dead, but then right at the end he shows up for some reason, saying he’s sick and needing money, though we only know this because Leigh briefly tells Deana about it. Oh, and Leigh’s new boyfriend, the cop, turns out to be a sicko, a “twist” you’ll most likely see coming from the first few pages.
The long and short of it is The Lake feels like a book that was written with little to no proofreading or logic checks and was probably not meant to be published in such a raw state. That’s a guess, of course, since I can’t possibly be sure of its origins or path to the publishers, but after coming off of Into the Fire, which was tons of fun, The Lake just feels like a big mess.
Some of the internal dialogue becomes external, and when the characters are talking or thinking to themselves, it reminded me way too much of the most annoying aspects of pretty much everything I’ve ever read by Ed Lee. None of the characters felt real, just carbon copies of actual people. Their actions usually make little to no sense, and just when you think you’re beginning to understand their motivations, they go and do something totally opposite and you’re taken completely out of the story.
I think that was honestly my biggest issue with The Lake. Laymon’s books were never perfect (for example, he has a tendency to get his female characters naked far too often and in somewhat ridiculous situations), but usually I can look right past it because the rest of the story is moving along so fast I don’t have time to notice or care too much about its minor flaws. The Lake is overlong (402 pages, to be exact), drags for about 100 pages straight at one point, and gives one more than enough time to step back and see its imperfections aplenty.
Of Leisure’s two recent Laymon releases, I have to recommend Into the Fire; it’s a far better book and a great example of Laymon in top form. I only wish they had put this out first so I wasn’t left with such a sour taste in my mouth. Still, Richard’s output was prolific and filled with enough gems to make the occasional misstep forgivable.
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