cover image The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

Elizabeth Kelly. Norton/Liveright, $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-87140-340-7

Kelly’s raucous, deliciously creepy novel about the dysfunction of the über wealthy begins in 1972 as the hoity-toity Camperdown clan prepare for another summer of horseback riding, fox hunting, and hors d’oeuvres in their cushy Cape Cod enclave. Godfrey “Camp” Camperdown, running for a seat in Congress, hobnobs away while his ex-movie-star ice-queen wife Greer—the brawn and beauty behind the campaign—entertains the guests and their 12-year-old daughter Riddle James (named after Jimmy Hoffa), who narrates as an adult. The novel threatens to veer too predictably into Great Gatsby territory (long-buried secrets bubbling to the surface, a sticky love triangle, a sniveling neighbor’s single-minded obsession with breeding gypsy horses) but is saved by precocious Riddle’s dry-witted narration of events, at least until she witnesses a heinous murder and clams up. While what actually happened the night of the crime is made plain early on, Kelly (Apologize, Apologize!) builds suspense by withholding the perpetrator’s motivations and the characters’ knowledge of who did it until the end. When the truth finally emerges amid a whirlwind of flying accusations and shattered lives—in a climax that’s a touch too hurried compared to the book’s languid pace—no one, not even the creepy killer, escapes unscathed. And everyone, at least in part, is to blame. Agent: Molly Friedrich, the Friedrich Agency. (Jun.)