A Lively Lakefront Lark
Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery
by Margi Preus
Publication Date: March 15, 2015
Publisher: University Of Minnesota Press
Margi Preus’ Website
Enchantment Lake at U of Minn Press
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A disturbing call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette sends seventeen-year-old Francie far from her new home in New York into a tangle of mysteries. Ditching an audition in a Manhattan theater, Francie travels to a remote lake in the northwoods where her aunts’ neighbors are “dropping like flies” from strange accidents. But are they accidents?
On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hotdish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure said to be under enchantment—or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake? At the center of everything is a suddenly booming business in cabin sales and a road not everyone wants built.
To a somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew, the intrigue proves irresistible, especially when it draws her closer to the mysteries at the heart of her own life. What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who is she, and where does her heart lie—in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota? With its gripping story, romantic spirit, and a sly dash of modern-day trouble (including evil realtors and other invasive species), Enchantment Lake will fascinate readers, providing precisely the charm that Margi Preus’s fans have come to expect.
While at an audition in New York, Francie receives an alarming phone call from her aunts in Minnesota. The connection is bad, so although she can’t be sure exactly what was said before the call’s abrupt end, she is convinced it sounded like they said someone was trying to kill them. When she can’t reach her aunts, she first dials the NYPD who are no help. She then tries to contact the local police who don’t pick up. So just like that, Francie leaves the Big Apple for the remote northwoods of Minnesota.
Once she makes it to Enchantment Lake, it doesn’t take long for Francie to understand why her aunts are so worried. Several neighbors and community members have died in odd “accidents”. So many that it’s increasingly hard to believe their deaths were accidental. Could there be a murderer lurking at Enchantment Lake? It’s up to Francie to find out!
Margi Preus places her reluctant heroine at the center of a decidedly eccentric company of players. In particular, Francie’s off-the-wall aunts immediately steal the stage. Though Francie only briefly portrayed a TV detective, her aunts seem to think she’s an honest-to-goodness private eye — and they’ve told the whole town! When Francie starts looking for clues, she spends much time trying to deflect the erroneous assumption that she’s a detective. As the case develops, since she can’t convince people of the truth, she finally decides that she might as well play along.
In addition to being a page-turning mystery, Enchantment Lake is a love letter to the Minnesota northwoods. Markedly different from her previous work, Preus has crafted a charming cozy for teen readers. Think of Francie as a thoroughly modern Nancy Drew. Although she’s amiable enough, Francie is sometimes upstaged by her aunts. In fact, Astrid and Jeannette are so funny and likeable that when they are removed from the story, the narrative suffers.
While Preus kept my attention throughout, I would have liked more character development. Understandably, though, given the wide cast, this may have been an insurmountable task — or at least an impracticality in such a lean volume. At just two hundred pages, Preus opts for a plot-driven rather than character-driven tale. And it’s just creepy enough — although there is a high body count, deaths are reported rather than witnessed, and despite Francie getting into some precarious situations, you never fear for her life. As such, Enchantment Lake serves as a good, clean, fast-paced mystery for teens.
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Lively Lakefront Lark.
Margi Preus’ young protagonist, Francie, begins her investigation reluctantly, but as the case gains traction, she embraces her role of private eye. Along the way, the clever intrigue is supported by a heavy dose of humor to keep both the tone and the plot from growing cumbersome. Give this one to readers of Nancy Drew or Sammy Keyes (though Francie and crew lack the realism and depth that make Sammy and friends so endearing).
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank the University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”