“The Last Summer of the Camperdowns”6/26/2013
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Fay Jones
Liveright Publishing Corp
Elizabeth Kelly’s new novel tells the story of Riddle James Camperdown and the dawn of the summer of 1972. Twelve-year-old Riddle lives with her father, Camp, and her mother, Greer, on Cape Cod. Camp, a vibrant, charismatic liberal, is running for Congress, while Greer, a former film star — gorgeous, arrogant and icy — glares over the proceedings. Riddle simply wants to spend the weeks honing her horse-riding skills, reading books and avoiding her mother’s witty condemnations and her father’s campaign fundraisers.
While next door at Greer’s sidekick Gin’s stables, Riddle inadvertently witnesses a horrible crime. Stunned and stiffened by fear, Riddle falls silent and tells no one. Her inaction serves harsh consequences as the summer unfolds.
Along the way, Kelly introduces another affluent Cape Cod family that has recently returned to the area, the Devlins. Riddle comes to learn of the Devlins’ relationship with her family: Michael Devlin was a close childhood friend of her father’s and served next to him in WWII. A mysterious event overseas ended their friendship, and they came home rivals. But as much as Camp thunderously nay-says Michael, Riddle notices Greer coolly dotes on him. She comes to find out that her mother and Michael had once been engaged.
Each character is wonderfully created and so flawed that — if not exactly likable — might escape our sympathy. Their sharp, quick banter — especially Greer’s and Riddle’s — are sparks in a dark novel but are unrelenting and unbelievable, even from a precocious 12-year-old’s mouth. But Riddle’s fondness and loyalty for her father and her general earnestness rise to the surface as feel-good points. What a great summer read. Suspend your disbelief, dive in and enjoy a suspenseful, intense, even funny story. CV
Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured.