Skip to main content

The House Across the Lake


The House Across the Lake

With the release of THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, Riley Sager continues to demonstrate that he’s a top-notch writer of psychological suspense. This relentless thriller pulls you in and never lets go before leaving your head spinning with some jaw-dropping revelations and plot twists that only a master of the genre can conceive.

Casey Fletcher is a recently widowed actress whose husband, Len, accidentally drowned in the middle of Vermont’s Lake Greene, where her family’s vacation home is located. She is struggling to cope with Len’s death and ends up getting fired from a Broadway show after showing up to the theater drunk. To escape the inevitable bad press, she returns to her lake house in Vermont. Armed with plenty of bourbon and a pair of binoculars, Casey watches Tom and Katherine Royce, a glamorous couple from New York City living in the house directly across the lake. Tom is a tech innovator, and Katherine is a former model.

"This relentless thriller pulls you in and never lets go before leaving your head spinning with some jaw-dropping revelations and plot twists that only a master of the genre can conceive."

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE is written in terms of “Now,” “Later” and “Before,” which makes for an interesting timeline puzzle for readers to put together. The book opens with a scene in the “Now.” Casey is being questioned by Detective Wilma Anson, who asks if she’s still spying on the Royces. After Wilma leaves, Casey goes upstairs to one of her bedrooms, where a person is tied to a bed with a towel stuffed in their mouth. She says, “Now tell me what you did to Katherine.”

We need to spend a good deal of time in the “Before” to understand what any of this means. Casey believes that she sees a body floating in the middle of the lake, so she jumps into her motorboat to investigate. It ends up being Katherine, and Casey saves her just in the nick of time.

Later that day, Tom and Katherine show their gratitude to Casey by giving her an expensive bottle of wine. Accompanying them is novelist Eli Williams, who reveals that the lake may be haunted and warns against swimming in it during the day when you can see your reflection. This means that your soul can be taken by the lake and can jump into another person. This discussion, coupled with the fact that Katherine has a weird reaction to the wine and a fainting spell, ends their visit. Katherine texts Casey the next morning to apologize, yet Casey does not remember ever giving Katherine her phone number.

Casey continues to spy on the Royces and witnesses a fight between them, where Katherine actually punches Tom in the jaw. (She had mentioned in an earlier passage about a time when Len rented out a movie theater for her birthday so they could watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a reference that I think is simply perfect.) When Casey has trouble reaching Katherine by cell, she takes her boat over to their place to find Tom on the dock all alone. He tells her that Katherine left earlier in the day to go back to New York, even though she swears she heard the screams of a woman that very morning. Casey has her cousin in NYC reach out to Katherine at her address there, but according to the doorman, Katherine is still in Vermont at the lake house. She now suspects that Tom has done something very bad.

Boone Conrad is an ex-cop who is temporarily staying in the house next door to Casey. She confides in him about her suspicions, especially when he tells her that he also heard a woman scream that same morning and thought it was Katherine. He suggests calling an ex-colleague of his, Wilma Anson, to run their concerns by her. This becomes all the more urgent when Casey spies Tom at his house carrying tarps, rope and an axe. Wilma appears to drop a bombshell when she reveals that the police are looking closely at Tom as a possible serial killer suspect.

At this point in the novel, the more astute mystery/thriller readers might think they know where the story is headed. But let me assure you that Riley Sager has something quite different in mind. The last part of THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE took me completely by surprise, and I could not have been more delighted. It all adds up to another clear winner for Sager and one of this summer’s top reads.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 24, 2022

The House Across the Lake
by Riley Sager