Murder mysteries and their villains always have those “goddammit” moments when they realize they’ve been made.
“Murder She Wrote,” “Columbo” and “Ellery Queen” all culminated into a “the jig is up” denouement and the villain always attempts to flee.
I know I equated J.J. Dupuis’ first Creature X Mystery book to a plot fit for “Scooby-Doo” but Book 2, Lake Crescent, shows a more mature take on the cryptid-caper-turned-mystery.
I don’t mean mature in the sense that it’s more grown-up. It’s mature in the sense that we know Laura Reagan and her team from the first book, Roanoke Ridge, and they’ve now become a part of a television series that travels abroad in search of …
But, like any murder mystery, the theme is merely a cover for the real sleuthing. And Laura Reagan channels her own Jessica Fletcher with the help of her close friend Saad, returning from the first book and Lindsay, a former nemesis turned confidante.
The first book focused on developing the relationship of Saad and Laura, but the second one zeroes in on the bond of Lindsay and Laura. Other returning characters include Dr. Duncan Laidlaw, cameraman Chris (whose surname is never given) and the producer Danny LeDoux.
Unlike Roanoke Ridge, which was a fictional Pacific Northwest U.S. location, Lake Crescent is based in a legit little town in the Canadian province of Newfoundland.
Robert’s Arm is that small town, and Dupuis illustrates the residents in a sincere and flattering way, unlike some representations of Newfoundlanders in media.
There are little references scattered throughout about Newfoundland culture, such as The Shipping News, but not to the point of offence like “I’s the B’y” stereotypes.
And most importantly, there’s the cryptid, Cressie, an alleged giant eel that inhabits Crescent Lake.
The gist of the story is that Laura Reagan is working with her crew on an episode of Creature X Mysteries, and as they meet members of the community a stranger mystery comes to the surface. That mystery is a body in a tarp with a bent Portuguese gold coin — a love token.
When it comes to cryptozoology, Laura’s late-night discussion with roomie Lindsay resonates:
“We seem to be wired to create sea monsters that are a physical manifestation of the dangers of large bodies of water. Our powerlessness in water, our susceptibility to drowning, can turn something so necessary to our survival into a lethal monster.”
Oikotype is the term pitched by Lindsay, and it sticks to the evolution and common themes of cryptozoology. From wild men in Australia to Russia to China to the Pacific Northwest of Canada, the cryptid is the same but the meaning changes.
Sea monsters are no different, as humans have had to traverse dangerous seas, discovering new exotic animals along the way to new lands.
That idea of folklore, and the evolution of animals like Cressie through oral tradition, is a part of how Old World beliefs continue in New World environments.
And, as for the mystery, well Lake Crescent doesn’t disappoint, evening kicking up a few ghosts from Robert’s Arm past.
By the way, the third book by Dupuis, Umboi Island, is coming on March 8. It will explore the legend of the ropen, a giant creature thought to be of the giant bat order. Or to some a living pterosaur.