The 4th of the July is upon us, and it is the perfect time to dive into summer reads, perfect for a day at the beach or while having a picnic. Some thrilling reads out this week are The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell; Growing Things by Paul Tremblay; Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin; and Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear.
The Peacock Summer
By Hannah Richell
Harper; paperback, 400 pages; $16.99; available July 2
The Peacock Summer is a beautifully written, lavish page-turner that takes place during two summers, decades apart, and tells the story of two women whose lives are curiously entwined and a house that holds the dark secrets that could free them both.
In 1955, 26-year-old Lillian is a young, wealthy and beautiful wife of Charles Oberon, and is also the mistress of a grand estate called Cloudesley. Not long after her nuptials, she begins to feel that her marriage is a sham. Like the exquisite objets d’art, curiosities, and treasures her husband collects, she is just another possession captured within the walls of the grand countryside manor. With a sister and young stepson in her care, Lillian has made peace with her unfulfilling marriage and fate. That is, until a charismatic artist visits for the summer, Lillian is forced to re-examine her choices and the façade of her seemingly perfect marriage.
In the present day, Maggie Oberon escapes to Australia after abruptly breaking off her engagement. After her grandmother, Lillian, becomes ill, she must return to England and confront the past she ran away from. When she arrives at Cloudesley, she is dismayed to find the once opulent estate crumbling into decay and unprepared to learn the secrets that have remained hidden behind its dark halls. But within these walls also lies the key that could change its legacy—and Maggie’s life—forever.
Growing Things and Other Stories
By Paul Tremblay
William Morrow; hardcover; $25.99; available July 2
Paul Tremblay has established himself as a rising star in the literary world since the release of his seminal novel A Head Full of Ghosts in 2015.
Since then, Tremblay has garnered stellar reviews for Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and The Cabin At The End of The World, which, in addition to being included in a slew of “year’s best” roundups at the end of 2018, has brought continued accolades in the form of a Bram Stoker Award for ‘Superior Achievement in a Novel,’ a nomination for a Thriller Award from the Thriller Writers of America for ‘Best Hardcover Novel,’ and a Locus Award. The Cabin At The End of The World is out in paperback on July 2.
Tremblay has now created an incredible collection of short fiction, Growing Things and Other Stories, which showcases his signature blend of smart psychological suspense and spine-tingling horror.
This is a rich and varied assortment of tales, some of which experiment with narrative form, from diary entry format to interview style, and they highlight the author’s literary dexterity and creativity. A treat for Tremblay’s devoted fans and new readers alike, a few of the tales are connected to characters and plotlines from the novels. Here are some of the thrilling stories that are in there:
• In the metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers,” the blogger Karen Brissette (last seen in A Head Full of Ghosts) deconstructs the horror genre while also telling a story that serves as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.
• In “The Teacher,” a student is forced to watch a disturbing video of a terrible event within a day care—only for the video to torment the lives of her and her classmates.
• In “The Getaway,” four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint but start to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene.
• In “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” a meth addict kidnaps her own daughter from her estranged mother as a giant monster may or may not be terrorizing the town.
• “The Thirteenth Temple” follows Merry from A Head Full of Ghosts, who has published a tell-all memoir years after the events of the novel.
• The title story, “Growing Things,” loosely related to a character from A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full for the very first time.
Never Look Back
By Alison Gaylin
William Morrow; paperback; $16.99; available July 2
Alison Gaylin received high praise for her previous work If I Die Tonight last year, which also won an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.
The follow-up to that engrossing work is Never Look Back, an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense. It features a podcast called Closure, which investigated a murder spree committed by two teens in the 1970s.
The case Gaylin so skillfully puts together is loosely based on a true crime from the 1950s. Charles Starkweather was nineteen when he went on a two-month killing spree in Nebraska and Wyoming, accompanied by his fourteen-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate.
Gaylin says of how these events inspired her story, “If you look at the facts of the case, it really seems as though she was abducted – he killed her entire family before she got home from school, but told her they were being kept somewhere and would not be hurt if she complied with him. She was, by all accounts, not a cold blooded murderer but a somewhat naive young girl, trapped in a nightmare she couldn’t escape from.”
In Never Look Back, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire for thirteen days in 1976, killing a dozen victims before perishing themselves in a fire – or did they?
More than forty years later, twentysomething true-crime podcaster producer Quentin Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. After he receives a shocking message from a source, he has reason to believe April Cooper may still be alive.
At the same time, New York City film columnist Robin Diamond is coping with rising doubts about her husband and terrifying threats from internet trolls. That is nothing compared to the outrageous phone call she gets from Quentin, followed by a brutal home invasion that makes her question everything she ever believed in.
Is Robin’s beloved mother a mass murderer? Is there anyone she can trust? Told through the eyes of those destroyed by the Inland Empire Killings, including Robin, Quentin, and April Cooper at 15 years old, Never Look Back asks the provocative question: How well do we know our parents, our partners – and ourselves?
Stone Cold Heart
By Caz Frear
Harper/HarperCollins Publishers; hardcover, 328 pages; $26.99; available July 2
Caz Frear’s debut Sweet Little Lies was one of 2018’s most rapturously received crime novels, launching to #1 in Britain and quickly becoming a global bestseller. Carnival Films, the production company behind Downton Abbey, optioned the book for TV. (our review: http://brooklynfans.com/brooklynfans-of-books-sweet-little-lies-by-caz-frear/)
Now, Frear’s wisecracking, incisive protagonist Detective Constable Cat Kinsella is back in Stone Cold Heart.
The dark events of Sweet Little Lies cast a lingering shadow as Kinsella returns to the London Metropolitan Police after a brief stint in the Mayor’s office, reuniting her with her partner Luigi Parnell and the domineering leadership of Det. Inspector Kate Steele.
Almost as soon as Cat returns to the force, a young woman is found murdered after a party thrown by her new boss. Early indications point to Joseph Madden, whose coffee shop is around the corner from police headquarters. Madden insists he’s innocent and that he was at home with his wife Rachel at the time. However, Rachel can’t or won’t back his alibi.
Cat is tasked with getting to the heart of the Maddens’ marriage to determine the truth, only to find that other, darker forces, much more powerful and complex than any of them had imagined, are at play.
As the demands of the investigation threaten Cat’s budding romance and unresolved family entanglements, her past rears its ugly head. Just as the investigation comes to a pulse-pounding crescendo, she is forced to decide just how far she is willing to go to keep her mistakes from coming to light.
With the same razor-sharp dialogue, devilishly dark wit, and brilliant plotting that endeared readers to Frear’s earlier work, Stone Cold Heart will keep readers guessing as she explores the secrets we keep from our loved ones, and the ones we’d kill to keep safe in the dark.