Lake Crescent: A Creature X Mystery (2021) – J.J. Dupuis

Lake Crescent, J.J. Dupuis’ follow up to his first Creature X Mystery, Roanoke Ridge, feels leaps and bounds beyond his first novel. Leaving behind Oregon, and the hunt for Bigfoot, his protaganist, Laura Reagan, who now hosts a cryptid hunting show that she is determined to infuse with science moves to Robert’s Arm, Newfoundland, hoping to plumb the depths of Lake Crescent for a lake monster.

Instead, she and her crew end up recovering a body from the lake, and find themselves wrapped up in a mystery tucked inside the coils of a monster, that dredges up the secrets of a small East Coast town.

Dupuis, in the space of one novel, feels like he’s grown as a writer, layering in a stronger story, with fascinating and familiar characters (to anyone who has spent any time on the east coast), and while once again, there ends up being no proof one way or the other of something monsterous lurking around, it also doesn’t quell the imagination, and the wonder of thinking that perhaps there is something down there… in the dark.

Each chapter begins with a quote on the subject matter, citing newspapers, scientific reports, and eyewitness accounts, which puts the reader in mind of at least the possibility of… something.

Whereas in his first novel there were recognisable characters from the actual Bigfoot community (with the names changed to protect the (not so neccessarily) innocent), everyone in Lake Crescent while familiar in the sense of recognisable East Coast, down home folks, they are very much there own people.

Once again, the mystery isn’t too difficult to resolve, all of the seeds are there from the get go, but it’s the story that is engaging, the way the characters interact, and the way Dupuis doles out the narrative, clues, and keeps the cryptid mystery alive.

Dupuis has also given Laura a number of characters in addition to her friend, Saad. While most of the characters made brief appearances in Roanoke Ridge, they are more fleshed out here, as is the entire narrative. What remains, however, which was there from the opening of Roanoke Ridge is the sense of familiarity Dupuis imbues in his world. These locations, these people are all recognisable, we all know people and places like this, and if we’re reading these books, then we’re probably intrigued by the concept of cryptids as well, we want to have that belief fed, even if we know we can’t neccessarily get a payoff one way or the other by story’s end.

Lake monsters have always been fascinating with me, so this one really appealed to me, but Dundurn Press is just whetting my appetite, because there’s another Creature X Mystery coming in March of next year, which follows up on Laura’s promise that the next time they would go somewhere tropical.

She and the crew of Creature X head to Umboi Island near Papau New Guinea to investigate the stories of a flying pterosaur known locally as the ropen!

Roanoke Ridge and Lake Crescent are now available from Dundurn Press, and are perfect summer fare!

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