21 February 2014

Review: Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

Fascinating mystery with a touch of romance

Wildwood Creek starts in 1861 with Bonnie Rose obtaining a job as a teacher in a remote town, Wildwood. She takes the job because it provides her and her younger sister, Maggie May, a way to escape from a place where everyone knows their past and shuns them because of it.

In the present day, Allie Kirkland wants to follow the footsteps of her dead father by breaking into film, and a summer job working as a production assistant on the new reality TV show, Mysterious History, might be just the break she needs. She wins the job and her best friend, Kim, wins an acting part on the show. As the preparation for the show gets underway, the two try to determine where the show will be set with the assistance of their librarian neighbour, Stewart.

Allie’s new boss let slip a name, Bonnie Rose, and that forms the basis of their research. They discover Bonnie Rose lived in a small Texas town called Wildwood, a town that was mysteriously abandoned, with no trace of anyone who ever lived there… thus setting up the mystery of Wildwood Creek.

This is a dual timeline story, switching between the story of Bonnie Rose in 1861 Wildwood, and Allie in the contemporary recreation of the town. The suspense in Bonnie’s story is only enhanced by what we know in the present day, that all the inhabitants of Wildwood disappeared without trace. I often find dual timeline stories annoying, as one story is usually weaker than the other, but this was not the case in Wildwood Creek.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel by Lisa Wingate. The last two I read were too lightweight for my taste, and despite being marketed as Christian fiction, didn’t have any Christian content to speak of (in my opinion, there is more to ‘Christian fiction’ than a lack of swearing, sex or gratuitous violence. Or there should be). There was a faith element in Wildwood Creek, but it was only a light touch and didn’t come into play until the last quarter of the book. In terms of genre, Wildwood Creek was a mystery set in two timelines, with an element of romance in each, and a highly gratifying and unusual finish.

Wildwood Creek is the fourth book in the Moses Lake series, but works well as a standalone. I haven’t read any of the earlier books, and didn’t feel I’d missed anything (which is always a good sign for a series). Nor did I feel there was excessive backstory or explaining of the previous books (again, a good sign). Recommended for someone looking for a book that’s slightly different.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Lisa Wingate at her website.

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