The discovery and disappearance of a young woman’s body upends the interconnected lives of the Hamptons’ residents.
Kozatch’s debut novel has the same intriguing elements that made Big Little Lies a propulsive page-turner and compulsively watchable miniseries—a glamorous setting, a dead body, and the deliberately paced reveal about how it got that way. Also included are characters up and down the cultural and financial spectrum whose lives are impacted by the tragedy. The story kicks off when a lone surfer makes a disturbing discovery on the beach: “It wasn’t a rich kid’s kite. It was a girl and she was dead.” Paul Sandis, a transplanted New York City journalist who now toils on a local paper, hears about the body on his police scanner. But when he arrives at the beach to investigate, he is told there is no body and that it was just a “drill.” The truth surfaces when Paul comes across a viral photo of the victim. Paul is in the process of finalizing his divorce from Jeanine, who is not only engaged, but pregnant. Other memorably drawn characters include Merika, a Shinnecock Indian who may have seen something on the beach; Butch, Jeanine’s fiance, a financially challenged real estate developer; Will Clifford, the officer who initially called in the body; Peter Draken, a law student from a privileged and controlling family; and Maria, the victim herself, whose story unfolds posthumously in intermittent chapters. All of the characters seem to have juicy secrets or carry the burden of past indiscretions. There’s illicit drug usage, infidelity, and bigotry. Kozatch maps out the tony territory (“Main Street was now dominated by luxury brand satellites that wanted to be able to advertise ‘East Hampton’ on the side of a drawstring shopping bag”) as well as “neighborhoods you were unlikely to find on tourist postcards.” He effectively doles out information that serves to flesh out the characters. Jeanine and Butch, for example, go way back (“They were…in high school again, all eyes in the cafeteria on them”).
As one character notes of Paul’s reporting, it’s “the best kind of mystery."