Best summer reading 2022: 3 mystery novels with holiday settings
Western North Carolina is known for its waterfalls, mountain views and strategically located inns to capture the tourist trade. Megan Miranda has set her clever new mystery, “The Last to Vanish,” at one of these inns and the adjacent town, Cutter’s Pass. The Passage, as the inn is called because it is a starting point for the Appalachian Trail, attracts not only adventurers but also professional and amateur detectives. In the previous quarter century, six visitors – a quartet of friends remembered as The Fraternity Four and two singletons – have gone missing. The latest, who gives the book its title, was an investigative journalist. The novel opens with the recording of a guest who gives a pseudonym but is quickly identified by hostel manager Abby Lovett as the reporter’s brother, ready to do some sleuthing. Abby tells the story in an unorthodox way, covering the disappearances in reverse temporal order. The structure works well because Cutter’s Pass is full of secrets – “This town [is] a safe,” Abby mused – all of which Miranda expertly brings to light. “The Last to Vanish” is a well-crafted example of the importance of timing in a thriller. (Marysue Rucci Books/Scribner, July 26)
Allie Reynolds’ “The Swell” is set in an entirely different vacation spot: a coveted surf beach in an Australian national park. Sorrow Bay is the name of the beach, and one of its saddest features is the pair of corrupt guardians who, for a monthly bribe, let a small group of fanatics have the unrivaled waves to themselves. . The story is told primarily by an athletic therapist named Kenna, originally from Cornwall, where she grew up surfing with her best friend Mikki, now a member of the group that hogs Sorrow. “The Swell” opens with Kenna arriving in Sorrow to pay a surprise visit to Mikki. At first suspicious, Kenna makes herself useful by caring for her new companions, on whom the waves of Sorrow have a formidable physical impact. Away from the water, Mikki keeps time with the handsome Jack – a relationship that leads to apprehensions on Kenna’s part: Mikki comes from the money, which may be her main attraction to the still broke Jack. The book’s pervasive ominousness can be numbing, but the payoffs eventually come. By the end of “The Swell”, several characters have died violent deaths, and the reader has reason to believe that more carnage is to come. (Putnam, July 19)
“My childhood friends were Agatha Christie and Stephen King,” says the eponymous “Daisy Darker” narrator. The remark highlights Daisy’s creator Alice Feeney’s challenge: follow Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None” recipe – isolated characters, who get knocked down one by one until no one left – and invigorate the dish. Feeney sets her whodunit at a family reunion, where Daisy and six other Darkers, along with an honorary member of the clan gather at Seaglass, their ruined home on a private island off the coast of Cornwall. The occasion is the 80th birthday of the matriarch, Nana, which falls on Halloween. As the night wears on, celebrants are knocked down one by one, a particularly heartbreaking trend because, as Daisy explained at the start, “When the tide comes in, we’ll be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours. ” Daisy’s narration oscillates between past and present as an already dreadful night is made worse by a thunderstorm, and I forgot to mention that Nana collects clocks, including 80 menacing ticking in the background. lift its plot with humor – as in a flashback featuring Conor, the deputy family member, who as a teenager hosted a birthday party at Seaglass with his “not bad impression of Tom Cruise in Superior gun. He wore aviator sunglasses indoors even when it was dark, so he was constantly bumping into things and people…” The most striking feature of “Daisy Darker”, however, is not her group dynamics or his black comedy or his audacity. A surprise that appeared in the final chapters may leave some readers feeling cheated. To say that Feeney breaks the rules of detective writing would be an understatement. My own take on unorthodoxy is, “You get away with it this time, Alice Feeney, but I wouldn’t try again.” (Flatiron, August 30)
Dennis Drabelle is a former Mysteries Editor at Book World.