A Certain Summer was set in an exclusive neighborhood on the East coast. The stringent community rules on ownership and family pedigree reminded me of my visit to a similar neighborhood in New York, Breezy Point. Three years after the end of World War II, Helen and her son Jack lived in limbo waiting to see if her husband Arthur would move off the list of soldiers missing in action and return home. The seaside location was the backdrop to a story about romance, loss, and family.
Frank and Peter both vied for Helen’s love through their relationship with Jack. Frank was Arthur’s best friend growing up and was the last one to see him alive. As Frank’s duty toward his godson, Jack, intensified so did his feelings for Helen. Peter was a neighbor to Helen, and my pick for her romantic interest. He was charming and respectful, and seemed to genuinely care for Helen and Jack. However, there simply wasn’t enough build up for these romances. The conversations between Helen and the men were hardly more than friendly banter when suddenly the men cared deeply for Helen. Helen’s own feelings for the men also happened without any real basis. While I liked her, I wanted more. More of a reason to root for her, more of glimpse into her feelings for her husband and potential feelings for another man, more of an understanding of her background and who she was as a woman.
There wasn’t enough time to delve into the romances because the author spent so much time describing Max, the army search and rescue dog Peter had. I am not a dog person, so I wasn’t interested in the excessive stories about hero dogs in war. Much of this book felt like short novellas loosely tied together. Several minor characters appeared for a few pages, which aided in the general effort to describe the difficult reentry of war veterans back home, but didn’t further Helen’s story line. I thought the ending was extremely obvious, but again, there was hardly any build up to the shocking resolution.
The best thing about this novel was the location! I could see and feel all the details of the tiny seaside town. But this wasn’t my favorite summer war mystery, for that I would recommend Folly Beach.