Monday, July 11, 2016
Book Review: The Last September by Nina de Gramont
You learn int he first few sentences that Brett's husband Charlie, has been killed. What lead up to that, who did it, and why, of course are the rest of the book. And we flash back...
In college Brett and Eli were best friends. One night at a party, Brett met Charlie, Eli's older brother, a ladies man. Eli tried to warn Brett off but she was head-over-heels the minute she met him. They had one glorious night together of skiing and fun and sex, and then he disappeared. But she compared every man to him for years. Until she finally had given up and moved on. She was engaged to another man and meeting his entire extended family on Cape Cod, when who should she bump into but his neighbor, Charlie. And that was it for Brett. Charlie and Eli's mother was dying of cancer, and Brett helped Charlie through it. The situation was made worse by Eli's poor mental health. In college, Brett had been with him the night he'd had his first mental break, when he'd hurt her and, after he jumped from the roof of a building, ended up in the hospital.
Throughout their young marriage, Brett and Charlie repeatedly took Eli in, even when he was off his meds and doing poorly mentally. But after their daughter was born, Brett put her foot down about Eli. Eli was there when Charlie was killed, and everyone assumes he did it, but did he? If he did, did he have a reason? If he didn't, who did? Does he know? Is Brett safe? In Brett's happy family and simple suburban life, it seems baffling that they could have any enemies, but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that there is more than one suspect in readers' minds. But of course Brett's family is not very happy and her life is not very idyllic, once you scratch the surface.
This book kept me turning the pages and kept me second guessing my assumptions. Characters were well-crafted, and subtly so. They always behaved as they would, but sometimes you didn't notice the fine distinctions right away. This isn't a mystery so it's the odd reader that will figure out who really is the killer until the end, as there aren't adequate clues. But there are adequate clues to figure out who it is not. I was also impressed with how Ms. de Gramont took a normally sunny happy place like Cape Cod, and made it ominous and menacing, kind of like in Jaws. It's almost scarier this way. In the off season, the Cape is such a deserted place, that it almost operates like a closed-room mystery. Creepy and twisty, this tale of domestic wretchedness and marital pain will keep you riveted.
I bought this book from Park Road Books at Bibliofeast, and it is signed by the author who I met at the event.