Friday, 9 August 2013
Review: Cruel Summer by James Dawson
Released: 1st August 2013
Reason for reading: Loved Hollow Pike and it sounded awesome
A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Janey was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…
A compelling and psychological thriller - with a dash of romance
Sometimes you go into a book thinking it's gonna be pretty good and it exceeds your expectations to the point you are almost stupefied. This is exactly what happened with Cruel Summer. I mean this in a good way. I loved Hollow Pike and from that I knew that James was very good at creating real, relatable, diverse characters, building suspense and mystery and telling a chilling tale. But Hollow Pike could not prepare me for the masterpiece that is Cruel Summer.
The whole story is so carefully engineered in a way you simply can't fully appreciate until you've turned the last page. It is a masterclass in foreshadowing and characterisation. It has so many twists and turns that I was totally disorientated. Just when you think you have one thing figured out, you get hit over the head with something else (you'll appreciate that when you read the book).
I went to James' launch for Cruel Summer and he asked who I thought had committed the murder. I confessed that I had narrowed it down to two suspects and James commented that it the 'why' was more interesting than the 'who'. This is bang on. Not only for this book, but for this genre. When you read/watch a lot of crime-y things you get very good at figuring out the 'who'. It's not (usually) to do with stunning detective work on your part but more down to some un-quantifiable algorithm of experience, hunches and clues. But the 'why' is the fascinating part and it's the 'make or break' part as well. If the 'why' is flimsy, clunky, or clearly created at the last minute when the author realised that the villian actually needed a motive, the whole thing falls down. This was not the case in Cruel Summer. I never guessed the 'whys' (and there were a couple) and they were seamlessly, subtly, and oh so perfectly blended into the plot that I didn't pick up on a lot of the clues that were given.
Not only was the plot a total knock-out, but the characters were pretty awesome too. From Ryan and Alisha, who narrated, to the rest of the 'cast'. Their personalities, issues, relationships were laid out with almost Rowling-esque care, and, as usual, James made sure that no one was excluded. Ryan's narrative style, treating the adventure as though it were a TV show, was inspired and original. And hilarious. A points it was like watching a film (or a TV show), the scenes were that well described. Ryan and Alisha were funny, sassy and likeable; a winning combination.
TL;DR: Cruel Summer is a perfect, sangria-like mixture of murder mystery, thriller, horror and contemporary. While the murder mystery element might be the red wine (fitting) it is totally enhanced by the undertones of everything else. A fascinating, beautifully woven story that left me amazed, thrilled, amused and slightly horrified. A perfect blend.