What Dies in Summer – Tom Wright

Title – What Dies in Summer

Author – Tom Wright

Published –  2012

Genre – Crime fiction

When the CWA Dagger long lists were published earlier in the year I had high hopes of reading one complete list. But life & other books got in the way and when the shortlists were published I’d made no progress and the Gold Dagger, which had been my target, had shed two of the three books I’d read. The good news, though, was that the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger shortlist of 4 included both Wiley Cash and Tanya Byrne – leaving me just two titles to read. A much more achievable target.

So the two other titles on the list are What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright, and Ewart Hutton’s Good People. I’m still struggling to find the Hutton title in a bookshop – but I managed to get the Wright in time to take it on holiday and it was a pretty quick read.

Of course it’s hard to review this now without making some comparison to the other books on the shortlist and the most obvious thing is how the three I’ve read all feel, to some degree, like YA titles. The main character in What Dies in Summer is Biscuit, a teenage boy from a dysfunctional family who is living with his gran. The story opens with him finding his cousin, L.A., in a distressed state on their porch. Little is said about L.A.’s reasons for leaving home, but she moves into the spare room and slowly begins to open up to Biscuit. This feels very much like a YA “coming of age” story, until Biscuit starts having nightmares which feature a mystery dead girl.

It’s not too long before Biscuit and L.A. discover the actual body of a dead girl on the outskirts of town. This would be disturbing enough on its own, but her body has also been mutilated.  Biscuit doesn’t set out to find the murderer, but he is beset by a premonition that something bad is going to happen to L.A. or his gran. With this motivation, a few clues and a connection to the police in the shape of his girlfriend’s father, he finds the truth behind the murder.

This doesn’t have the atmospheric quality of the Cash title – although the settings feel quite similar. The book is quite dark – not only is there Biscuit and L.A.’s family, but there are a number of deaths in the book and of course the mutilated girl. Once the story picks up the pace, perhaps the last third of the book, there is a decent murder-mystery, but it’s just a bit hidden within the rest of the story.

In common with Heart-Shaped Bruise, it’s the character’s development which is at the heart of the story, rather than the “crime” element. Perhaps it’s a trend in crime fiction that the familiar aspects of mystery and detection are developed more subtly, but if so it’s not one that I’m a fan of. Of the three book’s I’ve so far read from the Creasey shortlist – my money’s on Wiley Cash.

Score – 3/5

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6 comments

  1. Interesting point about the YA themes/level. Publishers seem to think YA is very popular just now….doesn’t particularly appeal to me. The Australian Ned Kelly award shortlist had several YA books on it that did not sound particularly like crime fiction (the topic of the award) but more like SF/”dystopian” fiction.

    I have read the book by Ewart Hutton and enjoyed it a lot until the last 50 or 100 pages when it (in my view) jumped the shark a bit. It is a great depiction of Wales, & mostly a good crime story. I don’t think it is YA in any sense.

    1. I guess I can’t criticise the YA approach – but like you it’s a personal view that it’s not really for me. I enjoy a book best when I can identifiy with one of the main characters, and sadly it’s no longer the case for these books.
      I still hope to get the Hutton before the October announcement and if it is more conventional then perhaps that’s where I should put my money!

  2. It was an interesting year for Creasey submissions this year! Let’s just say the broad spectrum did a little shift. Pleased to read you are enjoying the titles we listed. And please do shout if you need a copy of the Hutton as I am happy to pass mine on!

    1. I think it’s surprising that there are so many similarities between the titles I’ve read so far. From a personal perspective it’s perhaps a little disappointing but maybe it will introduce the genre to a new audience. If you do have a spare copy of the Hutton I’d be v. grateful!

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