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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Summit Lake

Summit Lake

ISBN: 9781496700988

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 1/26/2016

Format Hardcover My Rating: 5 Stars Top Books of 2016 No suspects. No persons of interest. Just a girl who was alive one day and dead the next.” Set in a small, picturesque North Carolina town, Charlie Donlea's suspenseful debut novel tells the haunting story of a murdered law school student, the reporter assigned to her story—and the intimate connection that comes when the living walk in the footsteps of the dead. Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled. At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca's friendships, her love life—and the secrets she was keeping—the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past…

My Review

A special thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

T O P - N O T C H ! Debut? If this is a debut, can only imagine what is to come. . .A gripping crime thriller.

OK, I have a pretty good track record, predicting Top Books and those inspired for film. Reading 400+ books a year, certain show-stopper's stand out. Remember: You read it here: This well-written psychological crime suspense mystery thriller has "bestseller/the big screen" written all over it. SUMMIT LAKE by talented new author, Charlie Donlea, is destined to be in line for "The Best Debut of 2016."

"Charlie, I hope you have given up your day job, and busy writing your next installment of Kelsey Castle." Many more stories here, waiting to be uncovered, (hoping for a series); sure your fingers are tapping away. Set in the Western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains in a small upscale weekenders’ lake hideaway idyllic area, we learn of a brutal murder of law student, Becca Eckersley in 2012. Her wealthy parents reside in Greensboro, NC Piedmont Triad area, well-connected and father a prominent attorney—one of their many weekend second homes.

Summit lake

As the novel opens we learn of the brutal murder which shakes the small tourist town. We flash back and forth from fourteen months earlier with Becca, and her college life at George Washington University. We meet a series of Becca's college friends. Guy friends, a secret lover, a former relationship with a professor, and an old high school fling. They await college acceptance letters from the top Ivy League schools. From college stresses of grades, cheating to pass, obsessions, their future careers, aspirations, secrets, loves, and pressure of hi-profile parents….readers relive the months leading up to the tragic event. We also meet Kelsey Castle, a crime investigative reporter and author, from Miami, FL at Events Magazine, recuperating from her own tragic event. Her boss sends her to the small tourist town for some R&R, for a fluff story. Little does he know, what is in store and what Kelsey will find, as she begins her investigation. She is obsessed with finding answers for Becca, a young woman with a bright future, cut short. More secrets unfold. She feels a connection and will use all her resources to find out the identity of the killer. For justice. The murder has to be someone the girl knew--no signs of intrusion. Limited clues. The authorities are of little help. Someone is hiding information. Donlea, slowly peels back the layers, giving nothing away; flashing between the present with Kelsey, and Becca’s past, as we get closer to the day of the murder. Everyone has a secret. The investigation is mysterious and due to the parent’s wanting to keep things private, there is not a lot of information. Kelsey has to use all her creative reporting skills putting her in harm’s way. With the help of some new found local special friends, she tries desperately to piece together the mystery. Who killed Becca Eckersley? A girl with so many hidden secrets. Who would want to kill her and why? An intense haunting mystery. There are so many suspects. What compounds the intriguing crime mystery is the dark lurking psychological aspect. The secrets thoughts and obsessions of a killer. With twists and turns and many surprises, the identity of the killer will not be revealed until the end. In addition to the well-written and crafted debut, vivid settings, and descriptions--the human dynamics, with the powerful parallel story line of Kelsey. My favorite characters: Jack, Peter, Rae, and Kelsey. An irresistible page-turner—you will not be able to put it down, grabbing you from page one, to the "hold your breath" last page. You just know when a book will blow you away, from the well-designed book trailer, the description, and the cover. It lives up in every way; as why I pick the "best" for my Featured Weekend Reads.

Summit Lake

Think: A cross between Mark Edwards, Michael Robotham, and Linwood Barclay --authors, always landing on my top book list. I never left my hi-rise South Florida apartment once, this weekend-- gazing over the waterfront view, nerve-racked with intense suspense, glued to this page-turner. Add Summit Lake to your TBR list. Order Now! Jan, 2016 release. If you have not seen the trailer, a little more temptation. A gem, not to be missed.

Reveiw Links: Goodreads



Book Trailer

Advance Praise

“A brilliant, haunting thriller in which The Lovely Bones meets The Silence of the Lambs—with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure! Charlie Donlea weaves a unique, spellbinding tale about a bond between two fascinating women—one living, one dead. Full of unexpected twists and turns,Summit Lake is an irresistible page-turner.” --Kevin O’Brien, New York Times bestselling author "Gripping! This one kept me up late into the night." -- Nancy Bush, New York Times bestselling author “A swift, outstanding debut. Summit Lake engrossed me then knocked me cold. Charlie Donlea is a superb storyteller sure to damage the best seller lists.” -- Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author

“Summit Lake is a gem of a mystery, fast-paced and suspenseful.” -- Catherine Coulter, # 1 New York Times bestselling author

“An exciting debut, with all the right touches, captivating from the first page to the last. There’s a bright future ahead for this newcomer to the thriller genre — definitely a talent to watch." -- Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

"Charlie Donlea has written a riveting novel, layered with secrets and intrigue. He reveals his story through Becca Eckersley, the young law student who was murdered, and Kelsey Castle, the tenacious reporter working to bring a killer into the light. Donlea weaves his dual narrative together seamlessly for a gripping and tense mystery." -- Allen Eskens, author of The Life We Bury

Coming April 25, 2017! Charlie Donlea, author of SUMMIT LAKE, returns this spring with THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN. Read More

The Girl Who Was Taken

Charlie Donlea

About the Author

Charlie Donlea lives in Chicago with his wife and two young children. He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane.

These majestic trips to “God’s Country” inspired the setting for Summit Lake. With so many choices of entertainment, and countless other books to choose from, he thanks you for spending your time and treasure on his creation.

Summit Lake is his first novel. Debut pub date Jan 26, 2016. He is currently under contract for a second suspense novel with Kensington, to be published in 2017.

Photo Credit: ​Carrianne Photography

Summit Lake

A Personal Note from Judy: Could not close without these notes. Small world. An unexpected pleasure.

Summit Lake, NC - Blue Ridge Mountains (even though some of the area is fictional), I was so delighted to revisit the area.

A native of NC, with real estate and hotel clients in the area over the last ten years in the beautiful area of Summit Lake/Tuxedo, Flat Rock/Hendersonville, and Highland Lake area of NC, near Asheville-- (not too far from Highlands/ Cashiers--also a favorite spot when I lived in Atlanta for weekend escapes with some great hiking/ waterfalls). Both sons attended NC colleges, visiting the area many times. Who knew, the sleepy tourist area would receive this much action in a novel? Dying to know how the Chicago author chose this particular area. For further discussions….

Next Piedmont Triad Area – Greensboro, NC. OMG! Raised my children in the Winston-Salem, G’boro, NC area. Have racked up many airline miles over years, from Palm Beach Int’l to Piedmont Triad Int’l G’Boro (where my grown sons & grandchildren still reside), and Charlotte Douglas Int’l (my parents reside). Too cool, to have these NC mentions.

Of course having living in South Florida for the last thirteen years, (Miami, Florida Keys, West Palm Beach) always love the references. Fun to have both the Florida and NC connections, as well as my Washington publishing days.

The Summit Lake area reminds me of Big Canoe, GA — A resort in the north Georgia mountains, about an hour north of Atlanta. (8,000 acres with 3 manmade lakes). I had a log cabin there a few years ago, overlooking the spectacular lake and the mountains…loved it. (traded it for the ocean). Can envision a similar story set there. (hint, a great setting for your future books). Thanks for delivering a fantastic crime mystery thriller, and an added bonus-- the setting!







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