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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I woke up in a cold sweat, knowing for a fact that death was a teenaged girl."
Set in Texas in an era when Elvis is King, this coming-of-age novel is filled with the angst of a young man at odds with his history over a long summer when his cousin comes to live with him and his grandmother. Both young people have escaped their nuclear families, Jim (nicknamed Biscuit) from an abusive stepfather, Lee Ann (L.A.) from a situation she refuses to talk...
Published on June 1, 2012 by Luan Gaines

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SUPPOSED MYSTERY NOVEL
While ther was plenty of death in this book, there was little mystery. It is more a coming-of-age story of 2 teenagers.
Published 17 months ago by Ray


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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I woke up in a cold sweat, knowing for a fact that death was a teenaged girl.", June 1, 2012
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
Set in Texas in an era when Elvis is King, this coming-of-age novel is filled with the angst of a young man at odds with his history over a long summer when his cousin comes to live with him and his grandmother. Both young people have escaped their nuclear families, Jim (nicknamed Biscuit) from an abusive stepfather, Lee Ann (L.A.) from a situation she refuses to talk about. Only children, but cousins as close as siblings, Jim and L.A. fall into familiar rhythms under Gram's roof, both of their mothers, Leah and Rachel, given to excessive drinking, unpredictable behavior and unsavory men. Given her behavior since arriving, isolating and burrowing under mountains of pillows before she can fall asleep at night, Jim suspects that L.A. has suffered some kind of abuse. With Gram as their moral centerpiece, these bright young protagonists remind me of adolescent versions of the boy and girl in "The Night of the Hunter", seeking safety and security with a woman who will never betray them.

Ranging over vacant lots and stream beds collecting bottles, a freedom encouraged by Gram, Jim and L.A. encounters an unsavory ex-con, a man L.A. cleverly outwits when his ill intentions become evident. More disturbing is their discovery of a teenaged girl's naked and mutilated body near the tracks. This is a turning point for everyone as Wright ratchets up a sense of imminent danger that pervades the rest of the novel, L.A. potentially in the sights of a man who has claimed more than one victim in this sleepy Texas suburb. The author balances Jim's growing fascination with the physical aspects of his romance with his girlfriend and the burdens of manhood, the need to protect the females in the household from danger, his gift, "a touch of the sight", bringing vivid dreams and a consciousness of lurking menace. A family showdown between Gram, her daughters and the cousins reveals the depth of family dysfunction and the effects of collateral damage, everything falling horribly into place as Jim and L.A. confront their worst nightmare, evil risen from the ashes of fear. The cousins survive a moment of great peril, proving their bonds are stronger than the monster they face. Luan Gaines/2012.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, deftly handled Southern Gothic, August 22, 2012
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
Sometimes I wonder why we all do this - review books, I mean. All these opinions floating out there in the ether. Do they help people find books to read? Do books that deserve to sell really sell more if we say we liked them? Fortunately, whenever I start wondering that too much a book like What Dies in Summer comes along and I remember why I do this - I like blathering about books and I really like it when I find a debut author who impresses me.

What Dies in Summeralmost immediately reminded me of North Toward Home, Willie Morris' wonderful memoir about growing up in the South and being an expatriate of the South in that scary place we call "the North." It reads much as Morris' memoir with a slow easy cadence that carries you along. For me it also helped that it's set in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas where I spent some time as a teenager. There's something warm and comforting about familiar settings.

Once I settled into this groove, a fictional memory, a novel about the loss of innocence, the hero's journey, and so on, the author twisted his gentle cadence down a surprising road filled with rape, murder, and despair, but redeemed in the end by the love of family. There is so much beauty in this book as our hero (Jim) and his cousin (L.A.) seek out better lives with their grandmother, their own homes being far too dangerous to live in. Things are, of course, complicated in many ways and there is so much brutality lying just underneath the surface that there are moments when you fear it will come up from under the the water even as you see its shadow approaching. Mr. Wright handles this with a deft hand telling a sad, desperate, wistful, and ultimately hopeful story of truth speaking and redemption. Great debut - highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a 4.5 star for this paranormal crime fiction/horror story., December 14, 2012
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a quintessential summer read for those who like dark paranormal twists and a Southern Gothic flavor to their novels.

About: In a Southern town during the early 1970’s, a young teenage boy named Jim (aka Biscuit) lives with his grandmother after his stepfather has beaten him badly enough to leave him in the hospital; and it’s not the first time. When his cousin L.A. comes to live with them, because she too is being abused, a common bond and familial friendship is created.

What is special about Biscuit is that besides being unusually introspective for his age, he has a touch of “the sight” and sees glimpses of things in dreams and otherwise that others cannot. It’s all looked at as part of his heritage since the gift runs in the family, with L.A. and his grandmother possessing their own version of knowing.

When Biscuit and L.A. find a mutilated teenage girl’s body near the train tracks, there begins the discovery of a series of murders - all by a twisted serial killer who is profiled as a member of their community.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. Tom Wright has an interesting writing style that is both descriptive and unusual. In giving Biscuit his voice he has created a wonderful character. The boy narrates his story with a youthful southern drawl and local colloquialism that makes the read a special one; it gives the story a realistic and grounded feeling. I felt like Biscuit’s thoughts about life and growing up were reflective and respectable for a growing young man on the verge of adulthood. I liked that a lot.

A warning: this is crime fiction and depicts graphic details about the murder of young teens, including several violent scenes. Conversely, if you enjoy complicated characters and coming of age stories where a broad spectrum of beliefs are presented, then this will be an excellent pick for you.

One thing I am not crazy about is the cover - not a very comfortable position I am thinking! But beyond that it’s a fine debut and one which I could not decide whether to give a 4 or 4.5 stars to. In the end I have designated it a 4. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy slightly paranormal themes and are looking for a summer setting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, November 19, 2012
By 
Virginia E. Johnson (Seymour, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Paperback)
In this intriguing tale of a teenage boy growing up in Texas among a dysfunctional family, young James "Biscuit" experiences life, love, fear, and terror in a story surrounding murder and sexual depravation. It's a story that captures your heart and emotions as young Biscuit tries to protect his cousin Lee Ann from sexual abuse, while avoiding physical abuse from his stepfather. To add to the terror, a sexual predator is killing young girls and mutilating their bodies, while Biscuit fears his cousin may be next. The human monster is worse than any imagined creature the mind can create.

This was a story impossible to put down. I was amazed at the wide-sweep of dysfunctional families. It seemed that everyone was a suspect, and there didn't appear to be any sane families in the plot. The characters were thoroughly thought out, and the pacing moved smooth and easily. I even picked the wrong person as the murderer, so the author kept me off my toes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SUPPOSED MYSTERY NOVEL, January 25, 2013
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This review is from: What Dies in Summer: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
While ther was plenty of death in this book, there was little mystery. It is more a coming-of-age story of 2 teenagers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars character-sensitive thriller about Dallas' murders linking repressed sexuality and all of it's Christian undertones, October 9, 2012
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright details in fiction from the first person Biscuit or James a tenager in Dallas in the early '60's is living with his gramma because his mother's boyfriend is physically dangerous. Soon his introverted and smart cousin moves in too. Something is going wrong at her parents house, but she won't talk. Then they discover a dead teenage girl who has been strangled and sexually mutilated. With great empathy Wilson has Biscuit slowly reveal his story. Great character development, reserved psychological thriller. A real page turner which is not really a Young Adult novel in the regular sense. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, engrossing and insightful, January 2, 2014
This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book very much. It is exceptionally well written for a first novel and it held me engrossed throughout.

The story is set in Dallas, Texas in an unspecified time, but before computers and mobile phones. (Judging by some of the musical references, it seems to be around 1970.) It is narrated by Biscuit, an adolescent boy living with his grandmother and this is really a coming-of-age story with crimes more-or-less in the background for much of the book. For me, even the denouement and discovery of the criminal, although well done, was less gripping than Biscuit's own internal story which is beautifully told. As a portrait of a boy's moral and sexual awakening I thought this was quite exceptionally insightful, sympathetic and involving. Tom Wright catches brilliantly the jumbled thought processes and feelings of adolescence and I found Biscuit a very believable and engaging character. The portrait which emerges of Biscuit's feelings of desire and awkwardness for his girlfriend, for example, is almost painfully recognisable and is one of the best evocations of that first infatuation that I know.

Wright also generates a very good sense of the place and morals of the time there, especially as Biscuit muses about the nature of religious belief, including little gems like, "What it came down to was that I had a hard time seeing prayer as a practical tool in the face of real danger." There is a subtle, growing sense of menace, too. It's all beautifully done and I was completely swept up in it.

If I have a criticism it is that there is just a little too much drama in Biscuit's life to be wholly plausible, even if each part is completely plausible in itself. This is a small niggle, though. I found this an excellent read which carried me along, engaged me with a well-drawn cast of characters and left me with lots to think about afterward. A little against my expectations, this is a five-star book for me and I recommend it very warmly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime Writers Assn. Dagger Award Nominee, April 12, 2013
This review is from: What Dies in Summer: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
What Dies in Summer is the first of four novels completed by Dr. Tom Wright, a polymath who lives and serves his patients in the Four States region of the U.S. The Crime Writers Association (CWA) nominated his first published novel,What Dies in Summer, for a Dagger Award; and ICONIC - the webzine has nominated the novel for its Best Crime Mystery Novel of the 2012-13 Season. Both the prestigious CWA and the webzine recognize a literary creator at work with a common touch. This novelist's brilliant voice rings in a new and powerful memory for me. I want to hear the protagonist's thoughts and utterances again and again in his next three novels. I've come to like Wright's memorable debut novel almost as much as his paintings, drawings and sculptures. Great talents like Wright's come along once or twice in each generation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book!, March 20, 2013
By 
H. Bond (Nashville, TN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
This book is a real pleasure to read. Tom Wright has created a wonderful coming-of-age story about two teeanagers who have both escaped bad family situations by coming to live with their grandmother in a small Texas town in the 1960's. They try to rebuild some sense of normalcy and security in their grandmother's home, despite a constant sense of imminent danger triggered by the discovery of a naked teenaged girl's body near the railroad tracks. The author does a lovely job describing the small-town setting and the era and creating the sense of a summer that drags on forever when there is no school. And the ending is very satisfying, as the two teenagers triumph over the evil around them in a credible way. What a wonderful book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was great!, March 13, 2013
By 
Donna R (West Palm Beach, FL, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Dies in Summer (Hardcover)
I loved this book - I'm trying to find more written by this author. Extremely well-written and grabbed me right away.
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What Dies in Summer: A Novel
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