Book Review — Castle Lake: Grave Reckoning


I read the original Castle Lake almost two years ago and I enjoyed the story.  Castle Lake: Grave Reckoning picks up right after the original with a prologue and then jumps about seventy years in the future to the 1890s.  The story revolves around Alicia Murdock and a curse that she is unaware of.  The Murdock’s own a horse ranch on the grounds of Castle Lake including the land that once belonged to the rival family, the Ficks.  Alicia is a smart, active, and interesting girl quickly approaching here seventeenth birthday.


The story is one of witchcraft, a ghost, and historical fiction.  Ryerson likes to concentrate on history, or historical fiction as the case may be here.  A regional history is invented and detailed.  Although, the actual area or state is not mentioned it seems to be on the American North coast, maybe Massachusetts.  The descriptions of the towns had me searching for them on Google Maps without any luck.  The details and the descriptions were done well enough that I thought they may be real places.  The characters dialog is more for the reader to gather information than actual communications between the characters.  The conversations are filled with details that would likely not happen in ordinary informal conversation but are useful to the reader.


The story is a good mix of supernatural and historical fiction.  Reading through the story I was reminded of the old British Hammer House movies or the American “Daughters of Satan” from the early 1970s.  The movies were not like modern movies of non-stop action and gore, but rather a deep story that happened to include witchcraft and maintains a slightly dark tone. The supernatural aspect moves under the surface of a complete story.  Something that might be called a classic ghost story. In Castle Lake  we see the Murdocks, mainly Alicia, in this type of situation.  The characters here do not take much stock in the supernatural, other than the Bible, but find themselves in the center of it.


The story itself is heavy in details that might seem a little much, but as the story continues it seems to work well and details come to be expected by the reader.  The details also fill the reader in allowing Castle Lake: Grave Reckoning to stand alone as a novel and also remind readers of the original novel of things they may have forgotten over the last two years.  The reader, however, may have to give the writing style a little time to appreciate its purpose, but it’s worth it.  All in all, a good classic supernatural story with a believable historical setting.

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