Kate Wilhelm,
The Deepest Water
(St. Martin's Press, 2000)

Someone has murdered novelist Jud Vickers in his remote Oregon lakeside cabin, cutting short a promising career. Stunned by her beloved father's death, Abby Connors takes on the daunting task of going through his papers, which include the manuscript of a newly completed novel.

It doesn't take long for Abby to come to the conclusion that the identity of the killer is embedded in the manuscript. Two friends -- Felicia, an artist, and Willa, Jud's fiancee and Abby's adviser -- have reached the same conclusion, and they offer their help and support.

As the investigation continues in its seemingly plodding way around her and as her grief and guilt intertwine within her, Abby begins to solve another riddle: the mystery of her father's past and who he was. The pieces start to fall into place, and Abby realizes just how deceptive the surface of those she thought she knew can be, like the deep, dark and cold waters of the lake outside the cabin.

The Deepest Water is a gem of a psychological mystery that slowly builds to a high-pitched tension as it approaches its resolution. The characters emerge gradually and gracefully and even Jud, the murder victim, takes on new dimension as Abby unravels the secrets of his past.

The plot holds together well, and both plot and characterizations are interdependent, so that the reading experience is rich and satisfying. The writing is vivid without resorting to florid over-description, and Wilhelm fixes the settings and the people firmly in the reader's imagination. Furthermore, the excerpts from Jud Vickers's novels are enticing enough to make me wish that the books really existed.

For an intelligent, taut and fascinating read, steer yourself into The Deepest Water.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 16 October 2001

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