cover image The Trouble with a Hot Summer: A Novel of Sun, Sand, and Murder

The Trouble with a Hot Summer: A Novel of Sun, Sand, and Murder

Camilla T. Crespi. HarperCollins Publishers, $23 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017662-4

The death of artist Jackson Pollock lends dark undertones to the latest adventure of amateur detective Simona Griffo (seen last in The Trouble with a Bad Fit, 1996). While vacationing in the Hamptons, Simona befriends well-known advertising executive Bud Warren, who hires Simona and her Russian partner, Dmitri K, to investigate the year-old drowning death of his ex-wife, Polly. Bud is sure Polly, a wealthy landowner, was murdered, even though her death has been ruled a suicide. Bud's house, near the Jackson Pollock farmhouse, is set on fire; then Bud's drowned body is found in the bay. His death also suggests suicide to many, but not to his daughter, Laurie, who retains Simona and Dmitri to find her father's murderer. They discover that, as an aspiring artist in the 1950s, Bud had followed Pollock and Lee Krasner and moved to the Hamptons with fellow artist and lover Rebecca Barnes. Suspects for both murders include Rebecca, whom Bud deserted to marry Polly; Polly's former lover, an eccentric alcoholic architect; Laurie, who inherits everything; her boyfriend, whose father was cheated in a land deal with Polly; and some of Bud's business partners. Crespi softens the dark edges of her mystery with deft humor, allowing Simona to enjoy the Hamptons' hot spots, rub elbow with celebs and entertain a mild flirtation with the owner of a trendy restaurant. The mix of breezy vacation fun and somber matters of death, passion and art provides the tension needed to make this a sultry summer read. (Aug.)