“He’d assumed Janey’s death was the finale. Turned out, it was only the beginning…’
Cruel Summer follows a group of friends as they reunite after a year for a group holiday in Spain. They’ve had a busy year - living their separate lives, preparing for their futures and trying to forget their pasts. They haven’t seen each other since the suicide of their friend, Janey. They are in the middle of enjoying their holiday and time together when an unexpected guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Janey’s suicide was in fact murder.
The novel deliberately follows the typical thriller stereotype, hitting every single nail on the head – even a creepy mask features! This is deliberate on Dawson’s part, taking one of his main voices obsession with playing the leading role and adding a slightly satirical note. The book is written in “scenes”, with each scene from the different points of view of the main characters. You would think this makes the storyline predictable but it’s really anything but. There are plenty of twists and turns in the storyline that keep you guessing right until the last chapter – which I promise you do not see coming. Even if you do figure out the ‘who’ (I flitted with the idea), you will not guess the ‘why’. The story stays at a relatively fast pace to keep up with all its twists and turns which meant I could not put it down and devoured it.
Being honest, I was totally prepared to not like this book. I found the first few pages, which is a flashback, hard to read and the initial premise incredibly annoying – a group of friends who get to jet off to Spain, stay in an expensive villa that one of their dads own, get drunk all the time… we all knew those people as teenagers, and did I want to read a novel about them? Heck no. But I was genuinely surprised by the amount of depth Dawson managed to give to these characters, and I found myself incredibly attached to them by the end of the book.
I was lucky enough to meet James at LeakyCon London, and he is a truly fantastic person so I am over the moon that I love this book. Most authors tend to lack on their second book out of three, but he genuinely writes so well (this book could easily be a how-to on descriptive writing) and I can’t wait to read his first novel Hollow Pike and his next, due in 2014.
With total confidence, Cruel Summer is a 5/5 from me, and is definitely now a favourite of mine.
This post was written by guest reviewer Kath
Book cover image via Goodreads