‘Black Lake Manor’ by Guy Morpuss – Book Review

Time bending lock door mystery misses more than it hits

Guy Morpuss plays tribute to Agatha Christie in this time-bending murder mystery. Set in the near future, billionaire Lincoln Shah showcases new technology called hard light. This holographic-like virtual reality technology allows people to project themselves anywhere in the world using a small disk.

During the showcase at Black Lake Manor, a storm knocks out the power, revealing that the over 100 guests are actually only six people and those six and are now stuck at the manor until the storm passes. However, things get worse when the billionaire is found dead in this office, now those left have to find a murderer, one who can rewind time.

This is the second novel of Guy Morpuss, with his first being Five Minds, a psychological dystopian thriller about a murder happening in one body. Black Lake Manor prides itself on being a story about a murder that happens in one room and the killer has the ability to manipulate time. While this is a cool concept, there are a few things that let this book down. For instance, the main character Ella’s position as the investigator, and solving the case, is a little unrealistic. Even one of the other characters points out that she has no right to be investigating the murder, while we are meant to see this person as wrong and being difficult, he has a point.

Ella is meant to be a disgraced ex-navy officer, who specializes in marine biology, yet she is meant to be the person to take charge of this murder? The book tries to clear this by saying that she was just preserving evidence for when the actual investigators get to the house, but arguably she does more harm than good.

While the concept of a time-travelling killer could be exciting, it doesn’t go beyond being a gimmick. The time manipulation ability is contributed to a group of people, three of whom were in the house at the time of the murder. The rules to time manipulation are that they can only rewind time back six hours, and in order for them to save the life of a person that person has to be fully dead. No one is meant to really remember what happened during the previous rewinds.

However, in the story, the rewinding comes off a little more like a storytelling device than a murder weapon. Each time this is rewound, our protagonist Ella Manning interviews a different person. We as the reader know what she said to the other person, but Ella doesn’t – or at least if it’s within that six-hour time – she shouldn’t know.

The story is also split into two storylines. Alongside the investigation, we follow the captain of a shipwreck who is trapped under Black Lake in 1804. This part of the book is interesting, telling the story about the survival of a ship captain and his connection to Black Lake Manor. This also explores a connection to some of the characters and the legends behind the time travel ability the killer has.

Nevertheless, this book plays out as a bog-standard murder mystery. Without the gimmick, it’s not really any more interesting than others in this genre. It would have been better if it stuck with the one-room mystery instead of the time manipulation. Other than that, there really isn’t anything more to really write home about.

Black Lake Manor is an okay book; the mystery is standard, the gimmick serviceable but it’s a mediocre book overall. However, if you are interested in a one-room time bending murder mystery might find this book to your liking.

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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