The Bay At Midnight was another stunning book by master author Diane Chamberlain. This was a mystery, a family drama, and a coming of age novel, all rolled into one tightly told story. The story was told by Julie, her sister Lucy, and their mother, as the women recounted the summer they spent on the Jersey Shore in 1962 when Julie’s sister, Isabel was murdered. When a note left by a deceased neighbor claimed that the wrong man was imprisoned for the crime, Julie hesitantly began to revisit the events of Isabel’s death.
Julie was the main character and I especially enjoyed reading her twelve year old perspective on life that fateful summer. she misinterpreted so many things, and that innocent approach to people and events gave way to a life full of guilt for the loss of Isabel. The dynamic between the sisters, who were all sort of closed off from each other because of their age differences, was described so accurately. Julie was prone to sleuthing; a trait she acquired from devouring Nancy Drew books. The details she recalled from the summer helped to identify the real killer, but this wasn’t what I would call an investigative mystery book. Determining what really happened took a back seat to Julie’s coming of age story in the past, and falling in love with an old acquaintance in the present. I did not like the subplot concerning Julie’s daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, which was too obviously used to show how Julie developed as a character by the end of the book. The dark family secrets cloaked the novel in scandal and provided the layers needed to give characters depth.
The story was very well told, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Diane Chamberlain. The novel reminded me a lot of On Folly Beach, especially given the young narrator’s impact on the events that transpired.