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The lake of dead languages by Carol Goodman (2002)
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Jane Hudson returns to her old boarding school as a Latin teacher after her marriage failed. In her youth the legend that the nearby lake would claim deaths appeared to have come true, and now that Jane's back, once again people start dying. History seems to be repeating itself.

This setting provides a lot of the ingredients required for a true gothic novel. The story is told through first person perspective, which I love, but to me it's a bit strange that a large part of the book is in the present tense. The author uses this to differentiate what's happening now from the flashback portions. Understandable and probably not easy, but I didn't like it very much. Instead of the school building being the menacing force in the story, here it's the lake. The author does this quite well, I think. I was a bit disappointed by the way she portrayed the heroine, though. I couldn't empathize with her. Victoria Holt lets her heroines have sparkling conversations, so just by reading those you want to be just like the heroine. Carol Goodman chose to have her heroine not so perfect. Why would anyone want to identify with someone who remarks that she hates how whiny her voice sounded after saying something?
The story itself was quite interesting and for a long time I had fun trying to figure out what it was all about. However, in my opinion the resolution was a bit over the top. Also there were too many storylines put together: Jane as a teacher, Jane as a student, Jane's own Latin teacher as a student, and even a bit about the time when Jane's grandmother worked as a maid in the mansion before it was turned into a school. The author could have made it all simpler and paid a little more attention to atmosphere building. Having the story take place in present day America may also have been distracting; every time I read about jeans and cars it somehow felt wrong. But that may also be because to me Victoria Holt is the one and only goddess of gothic fiction and her books always take place in the past. Given that it's hard to write as good as Victoria Holt, perhaps an author should try to add something extra. Maybe surprise the audience with some clever twists, or by adding some humor.

My verdict: a 7 out of 10. I'd certainly recommend this book. To me it's not perfect, but that's probably because I've set my standards so high.
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