Nantucket in summer, four chummy couples, romantic intrigue and a possible murder, in the latest from Hilderbrand (A Summer Affair, 2008, etc.).
The book opens with the death of Greg and Tess MacAvoy. Sailing from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard for their 12th anniversary, the beloved couple is found drowned, trapped under their boat. Ed Kapenash, Nantucket Chief of Police and one of Greg’s best friends, has to break the news to his wife Andrea, Tess’s cousin. They are joined in mourning by rich, cultured Addison Wheeler; his wife Phoebe, a pill-popping zombie since her twin’s death on 9/11; wild Delilah Drake (in love with Greg); and her stoic husband Jeff. Inseparable for years, the four couples loved and respected each other, vacationed together, watched each other’s children; in fact, they seemed to have an idyllic life of friendship on the island—until the death of Greg and Tess uncovers all their dirty secrets. The toxicology report finds heroin in the bloodstream of sweet, overcautious Tess, a kindergarten teacher and doting mother of twins. Ed also finds five phone calls on Tess’s phone from Addison the morning of the sail. Were the MavAvoys’ deaths an accident or a murder plot gone wrong? Much of the mystery hinges on what happened between Greg, a music teacher at the local high school, and April Peck, a student who several months earlier accused him of sexual misconduct. With a few strings pulled by Ed, Greg’s career was saved, but the strain of the scandal has unforeseen consequences on the surviving friends. In mourning, each feels somehow culpable; slowly they confront together the sordid underbelly of their seemingly respectable lives. If the plot becomes a bit stretched at the end, never mind: Hilderbrand has a master’s touch at characterization, making the novel’s players seem so familiar that the revelation of their secrets is irresistible.
Great fun, and with a few poignant moments too.