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Middletide by Sarah Crouch
Crime fiction

Middletide

Debut

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by Sarah Crouch

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Quick take

This tensely atmospheric story about a failed writer’s uneasy return to his hometown is steeped in the natural world.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Writerlife

    Writer's life

  • Illustrated icon, nature_icon

    Nature

Synopsis

One peaceful morning, in the small Puget Sound town of Point Orchards, the lifeless body of Dr. Erin Landry is found hanging from a tree on the property of prodigal son and failed writer Elijah Leith. Sheriff Jim Godbout’s initial investigation points to an obvious suicide, but upon closer inspection, there seem to be clues of foul play when he discovers that the circumstances of the beautiful doctor’s death were ripped straight from the pages of Elijah Leith’s own novel.

Out of money and motivation, thirty-three-year-old Elijah returns to his empty childhood home to lick the wounds of his futile writing career. Hungry for purpose, he throws himself into restoring the ramshackle cabin his father left behind and rekindling his relationship with Nakita, the extraordinary girl from the nearby reservation whom he betrayed but was never able to forget.

As the town of Point Orchards turns against him, Elijah must fight for his innocence against an unexpected foe who is close and cunning enough to flawlessly frame him for murder in this scintillating literary thriller that seeks to uncover a case of love, loss, and revenge.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide and the death of a child.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Middletide.
Middletide

Prologue

January 3, 1994

Gray foam slapped the bow of the Crestliner as it zipped north across the still waters of Puget Sound. A fisherman by the name of Mike Ginter sat behind the windshield, bobbing up and down with the tiny boat, his eyes glued to the wall of evergreens that flanked the shoreline ahead. He was searching for the dying pine, the one with bleached branches poking through the top like exposed bones.

It was early Sunday morning, and by the looks of it he had beaten Wes to their favorite fishing spot for once. Mike cut the engine and the Crestliner slid through the hidden entrance to the cove as silently as a paper boat. As far as he knew, he and Wes were the only fishermen in town who knew about it. Between the dead pine and the one to its right was a small inlet accessible only at high tide and so narrow that he had to crouch down behind the windshield as the sweeping lower boughs scratched the sides of the low boat on the way in.

Fed by a small stream that ran through the Leith property, the hidden lake was full of fresh water that attracted the fattest trout anywhere near Point Orchards. Mike and Wes had sworn on their friendship to keep the place a secret, though not a weekend went by without someone at the marina eyeing their catch and pressing them for information.

Mike’s Crestliner popped through the pines and he yanked off his hat, slapping it down on the bench beside him. He’d been fully prepared to rub in Wes’s tardiness, but there was his friend’s boat, already docked on the far side of the lake and rocking as gently as a cradle. Mike swore as he reached for the set of aluminum oars beneath the bench. He rowed forward, his paddles sending the perfectly mirrored evergreens on the surface dancing in the soft ripples. He and Wes never risked motors here; both to prevent alerting fishermen out on the sound and to hide the fact that they were technically trespassing on Elijah Leith’s property.

Mike rowed a diagonal path across the water toward his friend. Wes stood like a soldier at attention in his boat, his back to Mike, his eyes fixed on the trees. There was no shoreline here. The dark forest marched right up to the water’s edge and the firs hung out over it, casting black shadows in a wavering ring around the lake.

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Why I love it

Don’t be fooled by the verdant woods. The sleepy and bucolic Pacific Northwest knoll at the center of Sarah Crouch’s debut Middletide is harboring plenty of secrets, and they are starting to grow. Slowly but surely…

Meet Elijah Leith. He is a failed writer who has returned to the town of Point Orchards with his tail between his legs. As if that weren’t bad enough, not long after his return a dead body is found hanging from a tree in his yard. This guy really cannot catch a break. But the law doesn’t care about Elijah’s bad fortune and wants to finger someone for the murder. So our protagonist must move quickly to exonerate himself. Along the way, plenty of twists and turns are thrown at him and the reader.

But there’s so much more to hook you into this remarkable tale. Scintillating prose, ominous and enveloping atmospherics, rekindled love, and a keen eye for the natural world. All of this makes for a unique and uniquely compelling read.

This story will go places you don’t expect. Gird yourself and prepare to not want to put this one down once you pick it up. (And don’t read any spoilers.) You are in for a suspenseful and deftly written treat.

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