Biscuit lives with his Gram and his cousin L.A. In Oak Cliff, Texas. He supposedly has inherited the Sight and gets flashes of visions or disturbing dreams. The summer he and L.A. Discover the body of a teenage girl, he realises he has been seeing her at his bedside. The girl had clearly been tortured and the community is on tenterhooks as the summer heat increases.
It takes a long time for anything to really happen. There are quite a lot of characters in Biscuit’s extended family to be introduced and I never felt like they were clearly distinguished in my mind. The relationship between the two cousins is awkward and I’m not sure if it’s set in a time and place where it would be acceptable for them to be more than friends. Whilst Biscuit does have a girlfriend, Diana, he seems slightly obsessed with L.A. and there are moments when you doubt his narration.
The pace picks up in the second half, after the body is discovered, some of the seemingly unconnected anecdotes from the first half start making more sense. Yet it is a book that many would put down before then. It’s too unstructured to draw you in and the characters aren’t going to enamour you from the get go. Tom Wright is a clinical psychotherapist and the book shares some similarities with The Sweetness of Life, but in a less depressing tone. Everyone’s a bit messed up and everyone has their dramas. In a way, it’s also a bit like an episode of a soap, just a bit too much going on to be believable.
His so-called Sight isn’t really explored much. He has flashes of something being wrong and dreams of the murdered girls but that’s about it.
There are plenty of passages that were engaging despite the overall novel not gelling for me. There’s a tense moment where they meet a mother bear, which is somehow more frightening than a potential serial killer on the loose. It’s a first novel and if only the writing of the bear scene could be transferred to the criminal aspect, it would have been gripping. I would certainly give him another go if his second book sounded different enough.
What Dies in Summer is published by Canongate in the UK and is now available in trade paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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