An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013:
“Like my mother, I deplored all that bored me—unlike her, though, I absolved myself of any obligation to be entertaining. I might as well have been born with a pistol in my hand, firing furiously at the floor, ordering life to dance.” So twelve-year-old Riddle “Jimmy” Camperdown (named after Hoffa) slouches hostilely summerward, cultivating her role of family curmudgeon. It’s 1972. Riddle and her parents stave off boredom in their wind-whipped cliff-top estate on Cape Cod primarily by goading each other (and riding horses). Her father, Camp, relishes the thrill of working himself into a lather about the latest Vietnam atrocity. Greer, her glamorous actor mother--once the “Toast of Hollywood,” now on extended hiatus from stage and screen--simmers and smokes, perfecting lacerating one-liners. Camp remained “inexplicably in thrall to her sleek furies,” mostly about money and their lack. Their clashes get a nastier edge as Camp launches a campaign for a state House seat, and their dashing childhood chum Michael Devlin--who’d served with Camp in WWII as a sniper in Bastogne, and later jilted Greer at the altar--chooses that moment to return to town with two teenage sons and announces plans to make public incriminating details of Camp’s war service. Just as it’s dawning on Riddle that her family runs on secrets, she witnesses an act of shocking violence in a barn and--paralyzed by fear--descends into her own pit of secrecy, even when she realizes she’s the only one who knows why the younger Devlin boy is missing. Gleefully wielding the pyrotechnic wit she first flashed in her debut (Apologize, Apologize!
), Elizabeth Kelly pushes the family dynamics of modern American aristocrats to near-absurd levels, throwing in a menacing stable hand, gorgeous gypsy horses that drive men mad, and a freaky, faceless doll to fine-tune the tension. In its final reckoning, what could have turned campy culminates with unexpectedly rich gravitas. --Mari Malcolm
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The best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize! (2009) returns with another witty take on a dysfunctional family. In the summer of 1972, 12-year-old Riddle James Camperdown is thoroughly overshadowed by her charismatic parents: her ice-queen beauty of a mother, Greer, a former Hollywood actress who possesses a devastating wit, and her outgoing politician father, Camp, a liberal idealist. While her parents run Camp’s political campaign out of their rambling house on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, Riddle attempts to carve out her own space as a competitive horseback rider. But when she unintentionally witnesses a violent crime, her life is upended. Unable to confide in her parents and deathly afraid of the perpetrator, she seeks refuge in the company of 19-year-old Harry Devlin, the handsome aristocrat next door whose father harbors a secret contempt for Camp and an unrequited love for Greer. Kelly is a very entertaining writer with a digressive style and a way with metaphor, but her plot is not as finely tuned as her prose. Still, many readers will find much to like in this colorful story peopled with larger-than-life personalities. --Joanne Wilkinson
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