Set in bucolic, hoity-toity post-WWII Martha’s Vineyard, this unnerving literary thriller from the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville finds a family unmoored by an unsolved murder in their apparently porcelain community. At the debut novel’s center are two woman, Nick and Helena, cousins who grew up spending summers at their family’s cushy lakeside estate.
Once carefree girls, now jaded women, they’ve since returned to Tiger House with their families, but their lives have lost much of the rosy glow they had before the murder. Selfish and aloof, Nick can’t stay faithful to her husband, the devoted but emotionally stunted Hughes. Helena, living apart from her sycophantic filmmaker husband, prefers pills and booze to dealing with her poor excuse for a relationship.
Meanwhile, Nick and Hughes’s surprisingly well-adjusted daughter, Daisy, is engaged to a man with not so subtle designs on her nearly acquiescent mother, while Ed, Daisy’s childhood confidant and Helena’s creepy son, is hell-bent on ensuring Daisy is treated with respect, no matter what the cost. Told from the biased and often unreliable perspectives of each of these five players, Klaussmann’s carefully crafted soap opera skillfully commingles mystery with melodrama, keeping readers guessing about what really happened until the end.
While her characters’ duplicitous behavior will elicit strong reactions, Ed’s psychological progression is the most fascinating to watch. The shocking finale, seen through Ed’s all-knowing eyes, scintillates as much as it satisfies.