Ashes to Water

Ashes to Water

by Irene Ziegler


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Set in Florida in the 1980’s, Ashes To Water is an atmospheric story of a small-town murder, and one woman’s reluctant involvement in its resolution.

Annie Bartlett must choose between her sister and the woman accused of murdering her father. Will she find a way to save them both?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594148606
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 06/16/2010
Pages: 393
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Irene Ziegler is the author of Rules of the Lake (stories) and Ashes to Water (mystery/thriller), which are set in Volusia County, Florida, where Irene grew up. A playwright and actor, she has had recurring roles or guest starred in many notable TV series and films. She is also the voice you love to hate on your cell phone’s GPS. Today, she lives in Virginia with her family on the James River. Learn more about her at

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Ashes to Water 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1962, Helen Bartlett, a nurse and mother of two daughters, drowns herself in Widow Lake, Florida near their family house. Her children Leigh and Annie blame their fathered for their mom killing themselves. Annie begins talking and seeing her mom's spirit as the child believes her mother became a mermaid. In 1981 DeLeon Deputy Sheriff Raina Salceda calls Annie who resides in Michigan that her father was murdered by his live in girlfriend Della Frome who bashed his head in with an oar. Annie calls Leigh in Atlanta. Engaged to a nice man with a teenage daughter problem, Annie travels to DeLeon where her childhood best friend Pete Duncan meets her at the airport. He is also Della's defense attorney, but he feels the evidence is so overwhelming that he wants to plea bargain. After seeing her dad's corpse, Annie visits Della in prison; the woman eerily looks like her mom circa 1962 and insists developer Kingfisher Powell killed Ed whom she says she loved. Annie begins asking questions as her mom's spirit tells her to stop as does her sister who needs the money due to her abusive boyfriend who insists that they would get it if Della is convicted as they would inherit and sell the land. Ashes to Water is an intriguing psychological amateur sleuth who-done -it. The murder investigation is well written, but supports a deep look at two sisters who as adults cope differently with their mother killing herself though they share in common holding their father culpable. Whereas Annie "communicates" with her mom's ghost, Leigh has been involved in a serial string of bad relationships. Readers will appreciate this fascinating thriller as Annie seeks the truth about her parents as much as who killed her dad while Leigh wants to sell the property. Character driven (even from the grave), Irene Ziegler provides a powerful thriller (see Rules of the Lake, not read by me, for Annie's previous appearance). Harriet Klausner
roses7184 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a world that is completely filled with books, piled up in multiple warehouses and waiting for a home, it is difficult for an author like Irene Ziegler to shine. As I am sure you all know by now, I am a huge fan of uncovering those hidden shining gems and sharing them with you! Ashes to Water is without a doubt my favorite hidden gem this year. If the following review happens to make no sense and ends up entirely filled with ramblings, it is only because I still cannot seem to wrap my mind around how much I fell in love with this book. Let us begin shall we?One of my absolute favorite parts about reading adult literature is being able to connect with the characters on a much deeper level. As much as I adore Young Adult books, I am past the point in which I resonate with those characters in my current life. They can remind me of what I once was, but only adult characters can actually show me who I may or may not want to be. Does that make sense? I hope so.That being said, Annie is such a fantastic protagonist in this story. Her life as a whole is laid out in this story, and Irene has no qualms with sharing the less than favorable parts about who Annie is. As a character with understandable flaws, she was so easy for me to connect with and I fell in love with her instantly. From the first page I was completely invested in who she was and what she wanted to be. Sweet Annie, a photographer who loves her mother and cannot seem to let her go. Flawed Annie, who needs love and reassurance and is not always sure where to go to find it. I adored her! She made the book for me, and sticks with me even after finishing it. If she were a real person, I do believe she and I would get along quite well.On the flip side we have Annie's sister Leigh. The yin to Annie's yang, Leigh projects herself as a self assured and confident female figure. Only when you read on do you begin to see the cracks in her shiny exterior, and as the story progresses they just grow more and more defined. Leigh definitely makes her fair share of bad decisions throughout the story. However she is written so that it is hard not to feel for her as a person. She knows the decisions that she makes aren't always the most intelligent, but she only stops to ponder them after they have been made. Leigh knows she needs help. That alone makes her favorable in my eyes.Lest I make this book sound like some self help book, I must add that on top of all of the inner dialogue is a beautiful and well paced story line. Irene shines in her ability to write a story that will keep you guessing! There is both an arsonist and a murderer on the loose, and it has turned Annie's small hometown completely upside down. People begin to suspect one another, and no one is sure that they actually "know" one another anymore. One part mystery, one part introspective story, this is an exquisite book that will stay with me for a long time. Page turner is an understatement. If you haven't decided that you must read it by now, I will leave you with this. There is a twist. Yes, a delicious twist at the end that will make your mouth gape open and possibly leave you wanting to applaud. I need a copy of both this book and the prequel. Stat.
Carolee888 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love the author¿s lyrical description of the part of Florida that she was describing. It was easy to sense that the author loves that area. She artfully added comic touches and handled great sorrow, the mixed feelings of grief, regret of inadequacies equally as well. She handled a lot of mixed feelings of the main characters with a great deal of ease. The dialogue flowed very well.Her characters were very well developed. It was great to get inside of their feelings and thoughts. I could understand the motivation of each of the main characters. It really adds to the book when the author explores the psychological make-up of the characters. The only thing I would have preferred is to have fewer characters. Sometimes, I had to strain to remember who some of the minor characters were. If she could pare down her character list, I think she could be truly great author.The ending of the book was an up and down ride through all the suspects and I did not guess who was the guilty one. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries with a psychological component.
smik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While as far as e-books go ASHES TO WATER is quite a long book, but it is compelling reading.Annie Bartlett has been estranged from her father for some years, having never really forgiven him for the death of her mother. In the intervening period she has carried the memory of her mother with her, in a delusional way, to the point where she "sees" her mother and holds conversations with her. ¿Since you were nine years old I¿ve been whispering in your ear, showing you the truth, lighting your way.¿Annie has also become a successful photographer and is about to get married.She returns to her hometown when her father is murdered and is met at the airport by her ex-boyfriend, Pete, who is acting as defence lawyer for the woman accused of murdering Annie's father. Annie decides she must meet Della, the accused, and is shocked to find that Della is a double for her dead mother. Della protests her innocence and asks Annie to help her prove her case. Annie feels that Pete is not acting as a defence lawyer should as he advises Della to plead guilty so her case will not go to trial.This is the main story supported by a host of sub-plots: an arsonist is burning new homes that are being built on land in the forest; the main suspect for the arson is a Downs syndrome lad who is the son of the local judge; Annie's older sister Leigh a drug addict who had asked her father to help her; and a range of other interesting characters including a Seminole Indian who wants to help his people survive by building houses for them and setting up a casino for them to run.I remain puzzled by the title ASHES TO WATER (The Lake Trilogy). I understand the ASHES TO WATER bit but not "The Lake Trilogy". Irene's website tells me that RULES OF THE LAKE, a collection of linked short stories, is the pre-quel to ASHES TO WATER. It focuses on Annie Bartlett growing up and is semi-autobiographical.
rslynch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I received this book for advanced reviewing, I was pleased to find the author was kind enough to write me a little note inside; the matching bookmark was avery nice touch as well. As a little side note, such small, intimate touches do not go unnoticed. I will also note this did not shade my opinion of the work itself. As far as the book itself, I am giving "Ashes to Water" 4 stars out of 5, but it is closer to a 4.5. The story was imaginative, insightful, hard to put down, but not perfect. I loved the beauty of the language, the way details and descriptions seemed very real, or at least very beautiful or hard-hitting. reading the author bio and seeing Ziegler's stage experience made me think that in some ways she wrote these things as a playwright would, in a way in which the words must do so much more than say a line--they must characterize, move plot along, etc., in a way that is minced in so much of regular writing. Other times, the descriptions disappointed me a bit, as I wasn't sure what was being said. I read the chapter about Marguerite and Eugene in the boat several times, trying to discern how much was coincidence, how much was planning, and whether I had just missed something that would make it less surprising. Sometimes it seemed like ideas needed a bit more fleshing out to tell me what I needed to know. Still, I found my way through and enjoyed the liveliness of her wording. I write like this much of the time, so it was good to see someone else using a similar style. As far as characterization, I really liked the characters. They were quite diverse, in appearance, jobs, mentality. I liked how different chapters had different viewpoints and knowledge bases, and these were kept separate quite carefully. I think the scene of Dade fishing near the end was nice, something he more or less deserved or would appreciate. Even when a character had bad points, they were usually endowed with good aspects too, which created rounder, better characters. The insight into pyromania, firefighting, addiction, family bonds, and mental illness seemed well-researched and fresh compared to what I have seen elsewhere. It made me wonder how much she knew before setting pen to paper and what led her to these niches of experience. Too often today is writing lazy, with authors sticking to what they know or what is popular, so these little details make Ziegler stand apart as an artisan in her characterizations. The story moved along pretty well. It didn't lag, although the clip seemed to combust near the end in an almost hurried fashion. Things started to be mentioned rather than happen, and the ends that were so tangled may have been a bit frayed before they were neatly tied up. I think the death toll was a bit high, and I would like to know a bit more about what happened to Annie and her sister and even the lake after the book ends, but I suppose that leaves more room for another volume. Perhaps reading the Lake House book sometime will help clear some of this up. All in all, the book was not perfect but its sins were forgiveable. I am glad to have read it and find its merits many.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From My Blog...Ashes to Water by Irene Ziegler is a mystery which reads like a mixture of a Shakespearean tragedy and an Agatha Christie Miss Marple Mystery. In this sequel to Rules of the Lake, which I have not read, Ashes to Water appears to do well as a stand alone book, but the entire time I wondered where in Annie Bartlett¿s life the first book left off, as there is a lot of family history such as Leigh¿s drug and alcohol problems coupled with Annie seeing and speaking to her dead mother as though she is still alive and both daughters cutting off all communication with their father. Ashes to Water begins with a flashback to 1962 when Helen Bartlett committed suicide by drowning herself in Widow Lake. Back to present day (1981), three weeks before Annie Bartlett is to marry Camp, she receives a phone call that takes her back to the small town of DeLeon, Florida, a place to which she had hoped to never return. Irene Ziegler sets up a fantastic and descriptive backdrop for DeLeon, as she details a Florida prior to the building boom. Ziegler shows equal determination to detail her characters, and for a small town, there are a lot of characters. These characters include, but are not limited to Pete Duncan, Annie¿s former boyfriend-turned-attorney who is court-appointed to represent Della Shiftlet, the accused, to Kingfisher Powell, an over-zealous land developer who is trying to buy up all the land around Widow Lake, giving him motive, Leigh, Annie¿s messed up older sister and her abusive drug dealing boyfriend Miguel, and 18-year-old Eugene, a mentally challenged young man who enjoys setting fires and who just happens to be the son of Judge Lanier, presiding judge over the murder trial, to give the reader a few ideas of the varied types of characters included in this intense narrative. Ashes to Water is a well-crafted mystery filled with beautiful details, deep psychological issues and plenty of plot twists to keep the reader guessing. Ashes to Water is not a typical mystery, it is a study of individuals and the complex nature of relationships and the damages brought on by secrets. I would recommend Ashes to Water to any reader who enjoys a complex mystery.
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sandiek More than 1 year ago
Annie Bartlett has returned to her hometown and the memories she fled from years ago. She received a call that her father, Ed, has been murdered and his current girlfriend has been charged. Annie and her sister, Leigh, grew up in a household full of anger and recrimination. Her father was a serial adulterer and her mother, a nurse, committed suicide when the girls were still young. Leigh grew up to be the girl she thought her father was attracted to as she attempted to get his attention. Flitting from man to man, her beauty her weapon, she has become mired in addiction and a dead-end life. Annie took a different route. She rejected everything about her upbringing and left town the minute she could get enough money to do so. She has carved out a good life for herself, engaged to a man she loves and has a career as a photographer. Now both girls are back and trying to make sense of what has occurred to their father. Did the girlfriend kill him over another woman as the police believe? Or were the other tensions in town involved? There is an arsonist at large and Ed seemed to know something about that. Then there is the struggle between developers who wanted Ed's lakeside house and the people in town who were fighting against having their area changed from a sleepy lakeside town to a major tourist area replete with casinos and the crime and changes that brings. Can Annie find out what has happened before the town pulls her back into her former life and the heartbreak it brought? Will the truths she learns as she struggles to find out what has occurred help her also make sense of her upbringing? Irene Ziegler has written an engaging mystery. Her characters are complex and the plot twists and turns satisfactorily. In addition to the mystery, there are themes of past issues resolution, conflict between development and tradition, and the struggle of characters to move past what was done to them as children and to become strong, independent adults. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.
Ascoli More than 1 year ago
In 1999, Ziegler published Rules of the Lake, and it quickly became one of my favorite short story collections. It was there that I first met Annie Bartlett, her sister Leigh, and their parents, Ed and Helen. For the past 10 years, I have missed the Bartletts terribly-especially Annie and Leigh, two characters who, while individually engaging, also give us a pitch-perfect sisterly relationship, one filled with both tension and love. (In Rules, we meet Annie and Leigh as children in the early 60s of Central Florida; Ashes to Water joins them in 1981 when they meet there to deal with and explore the circumstances surrounding their father's murder.) The adult versions of Annie and Leigh make perfect sense given what we've been shown of their childhoods-but they also surprise us. It was so, so gratifying to not only see some minor characters from Rules move center stage, but also to hear echoes of the short stories, expertly woven into Ashes, appearing as characters' memories providing insights into their motivations, and as background to important plot points. While the whodunit aspect of Ashes is totally entertaining and engrossing, I think to cast this only as a murder mystery sells the book-and Ziegler's talent and nascent oeuvre-short. Sure, we want to know who killed Ed Bartlett, but Ashes is also the story of Annie and her drowned mother, a relationship explored movingly in Rules through the metaphors of mermaids and breathing underwater-a theme that bubbles to the surface in Ashes. Widow Lake, which in Rules is a place of imagined childhood mystery, becomes the site of true mystery in Ashes. Annie's childhood friend, Petey Duncan, who appears as a stuttering and skittish neighbor in the short story The Raft, is now the quite grown-up lawyer in Ashes charged with defending the woman accused of killing Ed Bartlett. Even one of my favorite minor characters from Rules, the prissy and annoying Pamela Hooks, makes a cameo appearance in Ashes, as a neighbor who comes to welcome Annie back to her hometown of DeLeon, though viewed through Annie's now adult and more sympathetic eyes. (If you remember Pamela from Rules, you'll appreciate that she grew up to be a track-suit wearing pusher of megavitaman products.) And perhaps most powerfully, Ashes continues the story of the metamorphosis of Central Florida, from its pre-Disney days of innocent and magical tourist attractions like alligator farms and Cyprus Gardens, through the commercialization of the Seminole Indian culture, to the over-development and relentless paving over of Old Florida. Rules of the Lake opened my eyes to a Florida that is increasingly more difficult to find amid the Epcots, WalMarts, HolyLand Experiences, Hooters, and Bahama Breezes. Reading these works, we feel not only Annie's love for her hometown and Widow Lake, but her sadness as she chronicles the changing landscape around her. It's a perfect metaphor for what's happening to Annie herself over the course of the books. In Rules the changes are melancholy and wistful; in Ashes they are violent, and the impending death of Old Florida is reflected in the disintegration of relationships, in unseemly competition for land, and in literal deaths (this is, still, a murder mystery). I suggest picking up both Rules and Ashes. The two offer a rich interweaving of lives and stories. I hope Ziegler continues to explore the world of Annie Bartlett, but I hope we don't have to wait another 10 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
augustbranch More than 1 year ago
I loved Ashes to Water. A creepy town with skeletons in its closet, a lovable, flawed hero who returns to claim her father's body, an out of control sister with a bad habit for drugs and dangerous men...a great recipe for a novel. This book was a true "page-turner." But the language was so wonderfully written I didn't want to rush the experience! Do yourself a favor and buy Ashes to Water today!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
miccosukee More than 1 year ago
Ashes to Water strikes the perfect balance between page-turning thriller and pitch-perfect literary novel. A marvelously accomplished piece of writing, pulsing with rich characters and lush landscape." -Pinckney Benedict, author of Town Smokes and Wild Bleeding Heart. Ashes to Water is a compelling and nuanced novel with a rich and complex character at its center. Irene Ziegler is an extremely talented writer who has gone straight to my must-read list. -Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, and Tabloid Dreams. Ziegler does a fabulous job-great descriptions, wonderful plot, perfect timing, great arc, fascinating and full characters, natural dialogue-the whole thing adds up to a PAGE TURNER! -Emyl Jenkins, author of The Big Steal.