Cloudland by Joseph Olshan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
'A stunning literary thriller set in rural Vermont from the much praised author of Nightswimmer and Clara's Heart
Catherine Winslow, taking a walk during an early spring thaw, discovers the body of a woman leaning against an apple tree near her house in the Upper Valley of Vermont. From the corpse’s pink parka, Winslow recognizes it as the latest victim of a serial killer, a woman reported missing weeks before during a January blizzard. Once a major reporter for a national newspaper, now a household hints columnist, Catherine is disturbed and galvanized by her discovery and with the help of her neighbor, a forensic psychiatrist, as well as a local detective, starts to research the River Valley murders.
At the same time, her younger lover from an excruciating, failed love affair resurfaces after two years, trying to manuever his way back into her affections. As she delves into the murders, she realizes that certain friends and acquaintances may actually be suspects or even worse.'
Cloudland is a thriller/mystery novel set in rural Vermont which centres on Catherine Winslow previously a reporter for major newspaper now living in a remote location and who writes a household hints column for a magazine. Out walking one morning during an early spring thaw she discovers a body of a woman leaning against an apple tree. The woman appears to be the latest victim of a serial killer who was reported missing some weeks earlier during a blizzard. Catherine discovers the killer appears to be modelling his murders on a rare unfinished Wilkie Collins novel a copy of which she has and finds is missing from her library. With the help of her neighbour a forensic scientist and a local detective she starts to research the River Valley murders.
Although well written with beautifully descriptive passages of Vermont and New England scenery I felt that this fell short on reality. I could not really accept that Catherine Winslow would be confided in and included in the process of police investigations given that she had no real criminal experience or expertise outside her job as a reporter some years previously. I couldn’t accept her recklessness in deliberately putting herself at risk despite advice not to, I couldn’t connect with her she seemed flat and not a good fit for a central character. There was something missing for me in this novel, it was good on suspense but just didn’t deliver on so many levels with underdeveloped characters, unanswered questions and an unfinished ending in so much as it was not made clear if the person was the serial killer or not. Then there were little things that I felt annoying and a distraction such as the pig she has living in the house – a bit off putting really and added no value to the storyline. Her character was confused, she was presented as an intelligent woman and yet she appeared to make silly decisions that put her in jeopardy.
Difficult to rate really as some of the descriptive writing was so beautiful but the plot and delivery were lacking in realism. I am glad I persevered with this and read it to the end but felt a bit cheated in the outcome so therefore could only give this a 3 star rating. I am not sure if I would read another novel by this author based on Cloudland.