Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blackwater Lake – Maggie James


For someone who has repeatedly stated that shorter fiction is really not my cup of tea, I have had a short burst of reading quite a few examples of this craft lately, not at all in a bid to meet certain challenges, I hasten to add!
Blackwater Lake actually didn’t fit into any challenge but I do have a couple of the author’s books on my TBR and when another blogger reviewed this novella stating that it featured hoarding, I had to learn more and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

“It may not have been a lifestyle she chose, remember. Choice and compulsion don’t always go together.”

Matthew Stanyerhad left his Bristolian home as soon as he was able to, although at that time his mother’s hoarding was comparatively low level, he’d never been able to have friends round. As he got older, he visited sporadically but with the onset of his mother’s illness with dementia the visits became more frequent and his concern about the state his parents lived in multiplied. His father is still holding down his job as a groundsman for the Blackwater Estate but managing his wife’s condition is taking its toll. Then the day came when he couldn’t contact either of them and when he finds a note he knows that he will have to call the police. Even now as a grown man he wishes there was another way, he doesn’t want the state of the house to become public knowledge.

Matthew needs to clear the house out and starts sorting through the masses of papers and objects stored in the house, the tins of tuna hoarded for an eventuality only clear to his mother and the seemingly endless piles of clothes, many of which she’d never worn. When enough clutter has been sorted, Matthew uncovers some facts about his family all previously shrouded at best in secrecy or at worst shielded from his view in a veil of lies.

This is one meaty story for a novella, the characters see definite progression and end up as fully rounded people, although Matthew’s girlfriend is a little more of a shadowy being. I found the whole story of Blackwater Lake well and truly gripping all of which goes to show that a good story doesn’t need to be long to be satisfying. The plotting was also complex to fit into what amounts to a little under one hundred pages, and yet nothing felt rushed, the story easy to follow and I was on the roller-coaster ride to find out what happened in the past as well as the truth of what led to the disappearance of Matthew’s parents. I think it is often harder for a writer to give emotional depth to a story, particularly when the subject is male without moving towards the extremes yet although I never doubted the turmoil the chief protagonist was dealing with, the author didn’t allow those feelings to run out of control.

This absolute delight of a novella has confirmed that those books of Maggie James that have sat patiently on the TBR definitely need to be shuffled closer to the top of the mountain.

First Published UK: 27 September 2015
Publisher: Orelia Publishing 
No. of Pages: 93
Genre: Novella – Psychological Suspense
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

10 thoughts on “Blackwater Lake – Maggie James

  1. I must admit I’m quite fond of the novella length when it’s well done – I like being able to read a whole thing in a couple of hours. But I laughed at your comment about your challenges – it had crossed my mind to sort my TBR by book length and read all the short ones in a desperate bid to reduce the total and meet my GR challenge. But then I realised I’d be left with zillions of long books for next year… 😉


  2. Sometimes a novella is just exactly what the doctor ordered, Cleo. It’s a good length when it’s done well. And it sounds as though this one has a solid amount of character, action, and so on to keep the reader’s interest without being overwhelming. Glad you enjoyed it.


  3. I don’t read a lot of novellas, but with a plot about hoarding, it might just be the perfect length. I’ve read a few novels about characters who hoard, and end up feeling very sad, depressed, etc. But I went through a phase of reading several…probably because my books and collections made my daughter call me a “hoarder.” LOL. I was happy to realize that I don’t fit into the category, after reading about those who are truly hoarders. (And after watching the Hoarders show).

    This book does sound good. Thanks for sharing.


  4. wow it’s shocking that this is a novella, it seems like more than enough to make up a huge tome of a book!

    I’m intrigued by the topic of hoarding too, and I think as our society progresses we’re going to hear more about this condition in the future.


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