The Last Summer of the Camperdowns
By Elizabeth Kelly
(Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871403407, June 2013, 383pp.)
The Short of It:
Money, greed, power and a young girl by the name of Riddle.
The Rest of It:
It’s 1972 and twelve-year-old Riddle James is not at all pleased over what the summer holds for her. Her father Godfrey, affectionately called Camp, is running for Congress and her mother Greer, a once famous actress, is the all too present figure in Riddle’s world of horses and fox hunts. With the pressure of running for office, Riddle’s father finds himself consumed with the process, and Riddle’s mother Greer spends her days being Greer. This includes open criticism of her daughter, Riddle and anyone she comes in contact with. What Riddle doesn’t anticipate, is witnessing a murder. Cape Cod’s idyllic location is literally shattered by what she witnesses and her decision to keep it to herself is even more shocking.
Things get really juicy when Michael Devlin, a friend of Camp’s dating back to their time fighting in WW II, threatens to uncover a secret that could jeopardize Camp’s campaign for office. The situation is especially touchy because Devlin was once engaged to Greer, which has always caused animosity between the two men so when Devlin’s son goes missing, Camp is the first person Devlin suspects in his son’s disappearance.
This book is all parties, glitz and glamour with a lot of nastiness thrown in. At first, I despised this family and could not remember a more miserable bunch since the time I read Wuthering Heights. At the half way point though, they started to intrigue me. Riddle is a great character. At twelve, she’s somewhat innocent to what is going on around her but at the same time, she possesses an edge. Probably due to the fact that she spends all of her time surrounded by adults and not kids her own age.
I can’t say that this is your typical summer read. Many might pick it up for its Cape Cod setting, thinking it’s an easy breezy read. It is definitely not that. But if you like being around wealth and all the joys and problems associated with it, then you’ll enjoy the setting as there is plenty to sink your teeth into. But what you’ll enjoy most is Riddle. She’s charming, wise beyond her years yet untainted by the idiocy around her. And dare I say it? You might enjoy the numerous jabs that Kelly takes at high society in general. The names of these characters were almost too much for me at one point, Greer, Gula, Godfrey and Gin? But in the end, they fit.
If you want something a little different to end the summer with, this might be a good choice for you. It’s a lot more complex than I thought it would be, and who can resist a Cape Cod setting? No one.
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