Hello everyone! You all know how much I love books and reading. I am pleased, therefore, to share a book review with you periodically through TLC Book Tours. (I am provided with a copy of the book but am not compensated in any way for my honest review.)
Today I will be reviewing a mystery: Ashes to Water by Irene Ziegler.
• Hardcover: 394 pages
• Publisher: Five Star (June 16, 2010)
From the publisher:
Ashes to Water is a mystery/thriller, and Irene Ziegler’s first novel.
Set in the 1980s, Ashes to Water is an atmospheric story of a small-town Florida murder and one young woman’s reluctant involvement in its resolution.
When Annie Bartlett returns home to bury her murdered father, she confronts the woman arrested for the crime, only to discover reasons to fight for the woman’s acquittal. This pits her against her erratic and unwell sister, Leigh, whose very survival may depend on a guilty verdict.
Annie soon becomes snarled in the social and political dynamics of the town, a wrenching attraction to her old boyfriend, and the emotionally difficult business of sorting out her estranged father’s tangled past. Obstructing Annie further are “visits” from her mother, who drowned in Widow Lake when Annie was nine. As her attempts to solve her father’s murder lead to more bloodshed, Annie finds herself a suspect in a plot not of her making, and a threat to the town’s movers and shakers, suddenly very anxious to see her gone. When Annie’s father is finally laid to rest in the lake that claimed her mother, Annie glimpses in his sinking ashes the flashing glints of hope and healing.
My review: I love nothing better than a good mystery. This story is beautifully written with an intricate plot that keeps you guessing until the very end. Ziegler grew up in Central Florida and her intimate knowledge of the area, the terrain and the climate is felt on every page. Her vivid descriptions of the small town and the house on Widow Lake are beautifully written. I felt as if I was smack dab in the middle of humid, sultry Florida.
The characters are richly drawn with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas. Each of them is an integral part of the plot and nothing is as it seems. The visits by Annie’s deceased mother are a wonderful plot device; through them we learn a great deal about her death and its effect on Annie and Leigh as well as how it shaped the sisters’ relationship with their father. As Annie gets more deeply involved with solving the mystery of her father’s murder, the tension escalates with the stakes becoming dangerously high. Ziegler deftly reveals each character’s darker side to us as the novel progresses. No one is good or bad; everyone is multi-layered in shades of gray.
I would have like to have seen a bit more text explaining Annie’s choices as to her conflicting romantic relationships that have already been made by the time we read about them in the epilogue. I was left wondering what had happened in the interim that brought her to those conclusions.
Though the murderer is found, Annie still has unresolved issues which gives me hope there might be a sequel. I was engrossed in this intricate mystery from beginning to end. This is a most impressive debut.
Irene Ziegler is the author of Rules of the Lake (stories) and Ashes to Water, both set in central Florida, where Irene grew up. An actor, she has had recurring roles or guest starred in many notable TV series and films. She is also the voice on your cell phone’s GPS, so kindly stop yelling at her. She lives in Virginia with her husband and a wolf-dog.
Giveaway: I have a hardcover copy of Irene Ziegler’s previous book, Rules of the Lake, to giveaway. The book is a collection of stories about the protagonist of Ashes to Water, Annie Bartlett. They take place during Annie’s childhood in 1960’s Central Florida. Just leave a comment to be entered and I will draw a name on August 16th.