By Lucas Mangum
When I first was looking into reviewing Cruel Summer, I saw a few write-ups saying that it was inspired by Richard Laymon and his works. I’ve not read any of Laymon’s works, but I do know that there was always a gratuitous amount of T&A and overuse of the word “rump.” With the exception of “rump,” though, copious amounts of T&A always remind me of early to mid-80s slasher films, which I happen to have a soft spot for. So instead of approaching it like a Laymon homage, I envisioned this quick summer read as a sun-soaked slasher, which worked out well given the cinematic feel of the narrative.
The story begins with Willow filming a couple on the beach having sex. She has a very specific kink in that she can only enjoy herself when she’s filming those that don’t know she’s there. In the midst of filming, though, her camera captures a double homicide, complete with the murderer’s face in full view of the lens. He eventually sees her, and she rushes off into the community to escape. Her frantic running leads her to Sarah’s house, a romance author and fan of swimming naked. Sarah, seeing the camera, catches Willow under the assumption that Willow had been filming her. As Sarah and her husband decide what to do, the killer draws ever closer to their house.
What I liked most about this story is that it is truly a beach read. It’s straight-forward, quick, and fun. Though the story itself doesn’t go too deep into the characters and their backstories, it gives just enough that you can draw some conclusions with where things are heading. And despite the speedy wrap-up of the novella, I really did enjoy the ending. It’s a gory summation that aligns all the character arcs into one believable path on a secluded beach.
I’d love to see this as a short film set in the Hamptons.
Review by Regi Caldart
I received this book from the author for review consideration.