cover image The Dead of Summer

The Dead of Summer

Camilla Way, . . Harcourt, $23 (201pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101370-8

From the U.K. comes this promising debut novel narrated by the sole witness and survivor of a set of murders that left three children dead in an abandoned Greenwich, England, mine in 1986. Seven years later, Anita Naidu, now nearly 20, lives in quiet isolation in Bristol. She tells her tale largely in retrospect, with her opening bluster soon giving way to the vulnerability of her 13-year-old self. Having recently lost her mother and moved with her family to a council house in South London back then, Anita's only friends are the overweight and learning-disabled Denis and her volatile neighbor Kyle. The young Anita identifies with Kyle's social invisibility and, more disturbingly, his violence. The friends spend their adolescent summer wandering around Greenwich, running from bullies and seeking hidden caves. As the novel progresses toward its horrific surprise conclusion, Anita gradually reveals more and more disturbing information both about Kyle—and his mysteriously disappeared little sister—and about herself. Anita's story is intriguing and her portrait of the desperate Kyle touching, but the way Anita's damaged psychology plays out seems more a result of narrative necessity than of a realized character. Still, readers will react to the bold material and stark storytelling. (Jan.)