In this combination murder mystery/family saga from Lewis (Speak Softly, She Can Hear, 2005), a seemingly close-knit New England WASP family turns out to be riddled with resentments and secrets.
Widower Jasper is the patriarch of the established, moneyed Carteret family of Hartford. Because Jasper sold the family business, oldest son William works in PR and mountain climbs with his easygoing girlfriend Ruth. Oldest daughter Tinker has grown from a bossy, goody-goody child into a control-freak housewife who secretly gorges herself on sweets. Middle daughter Mira teaches creative writing part-time while putting on bohemian airs full-time. Pony, the spunky, beloved youngest, is raising her infant son Andrew, the product of a one-night stand with a stranger. One afternoon Pony asks William to visit her at the Vermont lake house where the Carterets spend their happiest times. After showing him a picture of their dead mother Olivia taken in 1968, with a man who is not Jasper, Pony says she has another surprise for William, but they argue and he leaves. Hours later Pony drowns in what seems an accident. Learning that the teenager next door saw another man visit Pony after he left, William pursues the possibility that foul play was involved in Pony’s death. Meanwhile, Tinker takes over care of Andrew, although Pony requested William as his guardian, and Mira becomes involved with a strangely solicitous mourner at Pony’s funeral named Keith. By the time Keith offers Mira and Tinker false and nefarious statements about Pony’s relationship to William, the reader can pretty much guess where the plot is going. William’s prickly relationship to Jasper is multifaceted, but Tinker and Mira remain generally annoying personalities, particularly in contrast to the saintly Ruth. Central to Carteret family dynamics, and to the plot, is Olivia, who never comes into clear focus even as her dramatic history is revealed.
Begins strong with crackling sibling tensions before sliding into predictability and incest-ridden melodrama.