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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Stranger in the Lake

ISBN: 0778388107

Publisher: Park Row

Publication Date: 06/09/20

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Top Books 2020 Charlotte didn’t know her greatest risk was saying, “I do.” When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned. At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two. As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

My Review

If you have followed my blog since 2014, you are aware, Kimberly Belle is one of my favorite authors, landing on my top books and author list consecutively year after year. I have read every one of her books and anxiously await the next.

Kimberly returns following Dear Wife (5 STARS) and Top Books of 2019. (set in Atlanta) 💕 You can also check out my fascinating elevator interview with the author last year.

If you enjoyed Dear Wife, you are assured to devour STRANGER IN THE LAKE - Her BEST Yet. (cover love). The author has a rare talent for writing psychological and domestic suspense thrillers with "HEART." STRANGER IN THE LAKE is a perfect example. I loved this book!!!

Meet Charlotte Keller. (formerly Charlie-and changed her name) Charlotte has not had an easy life. She is from the wrong side of the tracks and is called the trailer-park girl. However, currently, she is married to Paul Keller. One of the wealthiest and successful real estate developers and architects (Keller Architects) in the town of Crosby, NC.

Many people just know her as "Charlie" the poor girl they feel sorry for. Some thought she married Paul for his money and called her a gold digger. Paul is eleven years older than she and met him at a gas station where she was the clerk. Of course, no one ever expected them to get married.

Now she is pregnant, and she cannot wait to tell Paul. She is worried about what he may say—and especially his mother, Diana. They will think she is trying to trap him.

She has never lived anywhere but this small town. She pretty much raised herself and then raised her brother Chet. She knows love does not put food on the table. Nor does it pay the rent or creditors, and a baby needs more than love. She knows she is fortunate. She has security, safety, and stable life.

Charlotte now works twenty hours a week as "client relations" for the firm, where she puts out the latest fires at the firm.

Between his first wife's death, her convict father, and meth-head mother, they seemed to fit together like two pieces of a fractured puzzle. She loves her husband.

However, there have been rumors. Paul's first wife drowned four years earlier, and there was a lot of gossip about foul play. Yet, he was cleared.

Paul thinks the town is a place to sell million-dollar lots and socialize. Whereas her friends are the locals that serve the drinks and wait tables.

As the book opens, she is excited to find her husband and tell him the great news about being pregnant and finds Paul talking to a woman who evidently did not live in this town. A tourist, she suspected.

However, later the woman shows up dead (drowned) in the lake under the dock in front of their house. Pretty much the same spot where his wife drowned.

She thought it was strange when she mentioned him talking to the woman, yet he acted like he did not the woman. Charlotte begins getting suspicious. Her husband seems to be going off, and she does not know where he is going. He seems secretive. She is worried about what he may be hiding, and could he have murdered his first wife?

She is frightened for herself and the baby she is carrying. Could Paul be mixed up in something like this?

Paul has two best friends from college. One Jax, which everyone calls a crazy old man who lives in the woods from past traumatic experience. Charlotte tries to help him giving him money and food when she can.

Micah is the other friend who lives next door. He is also the son of the police chief and a bad-ass driver specialized in underwater investigations and evidence recovery. Emergency services will be calling him. They are all still close.

She thinks Micah might have the answers she needs. Surely he will know what happened to the woman. She tells both Jax and Micah she is concerned about Paul. Of course, Paul has never worried about anything like Charlotte and Chet.

"Privilege will do that to a person, make you blind to the struggles of those who exist outside your bubble."

So what will happen now that another body has washed up under the Keller dock? Sam, the local cop, always thinks it was Paul.

The suspense builds. The plot thickens. Who is the stranger in the lake? How does Paul state he does not know the blonde woman when she saw him talking to her? Could she be reading more into this than what it is?

She starts trying to remember how Katherine died. Are the two related?

Paul loved her. Often she wishes Paul loved her like the once loved Katherine. Paul inherited all of Katherine's wealth. She was a competitive swimmer, and Sam never believed that she drowned. Her family had more money than his. You will not see this coming. Unpredictable. If you are like me you will pull an all nighter. So clear your calendar.

You will be on the edge of your seat! The suspense is riveting! Between what is going on with Jax, his past, his family, Paul, and Micah. Jax's warnings to watch her back.

All these guys are keeping secrets, and Charlotte is determined to find answers before her own life is in danger and her baby. You will root for Charlotte and her brother to the end. (love the ending). I loved her spirit and tenacity. Fingers crossed for a movie or TV series.

Belle's characters are flawed, have experienced loss; however, they are resistant, survivors, and triumph over tragedy. The author has the keen ability to balance the darkness with light with strong female characters delving into their hearts, souls, and fears.

There are many things I could list about Kimberly's novels in addition to her taut writing, twisty plots, riveting suspense, relatable characters, and the list goes on and on. Highly recommend!

Sorry guys but there is a lot to say with Kimberly's books. So you can stop here, but if you want to know more about the great hiking in NC, read on.

On a side note: The one thing which comes to mind is her settings. I adore her settings. Maybe because I am a gal from the Southeast and primarily lived in Atlanta, Florida, and NC. Most of her settings are places that I have visited and spent time there over the years with many fond memories.

STRANGER IN THE LAKE is no exception. Even though the Lake Crosby is fictional, the author is basing this on the Highlands/Cashier's NC mountains and lakes. A slice of heaven for me. When I lived in Atlanta for twelve years, almost every weekend, I would pack my bike and hiking gear in my SUV and head to the Highlands. My favorite part of NC. It was like home. I have hiked every mountain there between Highlands and Cashiers. In some high spots you can view GA, NC, and SC where they come together.

The waterfalls and hiking are some of the best! Readers, if you are ever in the area, highly recommend. I love the town, quaint inns, scenery, the restaurants, shops, cottages, and cabins. Sapphire and High Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville in Cashiers is also lovely. My sons know to spread my part of ashes on the top of the Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, where you look down at the beautiful lake.

There is nothing like the mountains on a fall day and evening. I miss it. Here is am living in South Florida (the opposite). I relocated here for a job years ago from there and have remained. In a perfect world, I would like to live in both places. I actually moved to Big Canoe for a year or so and lived there full time. (a resort in North Georgia mountains).

Kimberly, I hope you will write a book set there someday! You did so in Dahlonega, GA, with Three Days Missing, so you are not too far off.

Your books are always a special treat and I feel like I am going home. Thank you!

A special thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.


Charlotte, the narrator of this well-paced novel set in Lake Crosby, N.C., from Belle (Dear Wife), was raised in poverty, but she has achieved her dream of a better life by marrying Paul Keller, the richest man in the Appalachian tourist town of Lake Crosby, N.C., despite the local gossip that Paul drowned his first wife four years earlier. Then one day she’s disturbed to spot a nervous-looking Paul talking to a strange woman. The next day, Charlotte finds the woman’s body floating under their lakefront dock, just like Paul’s first wife. When shown the body, Paul tells the police he’s never seen the woman. He later takes off without telling anyone where he’s going. Frightened and confused, Charlotte turns to Paul’s two best friends for support, one the town crazy, the other the police chief’s son, both with dark secrets of their own. Belle weaves an intricate web of connections among the characters as the action moves toward the surprising ending. Those who like a message of hope in their psychological thrillers will be satisfied.

— Publisher’s Weekly

Charlotte Keller is living a life she never imagined, having grown up neglected and poor in the tiny town of Lake Crosby, nestled in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. Now married to a successful architect, Charlotte finds life is a dream, except for the rumors that her perfect new husband, Paul, drowned his wife in the lake four years before. Fortune takes a turn for the worse when the body of a female tourist turns up at the happy couple's dock. Paul swears he had nothing to do with it, but Charlotte's suspicions begin to grow as she tries to reason whether tragedy follows Paul or whether he causes it. A secret from the past that is tied in throughout the story slowly helps the reader piece together the truth of the mystery surrounding Paul. This is a decent slow-burn thriller with good writing and some interesting plot twists. Stranger in the Lake will be enjoyed by suspense lovers and is a good addition to a well-rounded collection.

— Margaret Howard for Booklist

Stranger in the Lake is a spellbinding tale of lies and deceit that unfolds piece by devastating piece. Another outstanding novel by Kimberly Belle, masterfully written to lure you in and never let go."

— Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It

"Kimberly Belle does it again! In Stranger in the Lake, Belle captivates from the first line until the last, crafting a suspenseful, emotional, and fascinating tale of secrets and lies. This fantastic story features a heroine to root for and admire, all the while keeping readers on the edge of our seats as we follow her gripping journey to uncover the truth about her marriage and past. A must read!"

— Samantha M. Bailey, bestselling author of Woman on the Edge

“With Stranger in the Lake, Kimberly Belle once again proves she’s a top-notch thriller author. Brilliantly plotted, smoothly written, and expertly paced, this domestic suspense tale about the consequences of one’s choices will not only keep you guessing, and shifting your allegiances, but turning those pages well into the night, too. Belle has a knack for creating flawed yet relatable characters, and deeply satisfying, powerful endings. This is a killer of a book!”

—Hannah Mary McKinnon, bestselling author of SISTER DEAR

"Kimberly Belle explores the shocking depths people will go to keep their secrets buried in her latest slow burn thriller Stranger in the Lake, before building to an explosive and unexpected finale. Belle delivers with lyric prose and an atmospheric, moody mystery that will have her fans begging for more. Must read!"

— Mary Kubica, NYT bestselling author The Other Mrs

"When your history comes back to haunt you-- what secrets are you keeping from yourself? Atmospheric and sinister, this unsettling and twisty story of a new marriage with old memories will yank the rug right out from under you. With a gorgeously evocative setting and a compelling cast of multi-motivated narrators, this terrific and cinematic thriller should be the big screen's next big hit."

— Hank Phillippi Ryan, Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony and five-time Agatha Award Winning author of The Murder List

“Clear your calendar because once you’ve started Kimberly Belle’s utterly engrossing Stranger in the Lake, you won’t be able to tear yourself away! Old and new secrets abound in this tense and atmospheric thriller that will make you question how well we can really know anyone, and how much we might be willing to forgive for those we consider family.”

— Kathleen Barber, author of Follow Me and Truth Be Told, an Apple TV+ series

“Belle’s latest is another riveting, superbly written, didn’t-see-that-coming thriller that will keep you up way past your bedtime. With tension building on every page, Charlotte digs relentlessly for the truth about her new husband, even though it might destroy everything she loves.”

— Kate White, New York Times bestselling author of Have You Seen Me?

Atmospheric and haunting, Kimberly Belle’s Stranger in the Lake pulled me in on page one and refused to let go. A dark and beautifully written thriller, Belle is the queen of creating resilient and fearless female protagonists. An intriguing exploration of friendship, family wounds and secrets that won’t stay hidden.

— Heather Gudenkauf, NYT bestselling author of The Weight of Silence

About the Author

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020).

Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options.

A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Read more






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