The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel

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by Elizabeth Kelly

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“A witty, suspenseful tale of murder, marital conflict and agonizing secrets. . . . The exuberant story is transporting and delicious, a worthy summer read.”—People

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, from the best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize!, introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old


“A witty, suspenseful tale of murder, marital conflict and agonizing secrets. . . . The exuberant story is transporting and delicious, a worthy summer read.”—People

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, from the best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize!, introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured, razor-sharp wife, Greer. It’s 1972, and Riddle’s father is running for office from the family compound in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Between Camp’s desire to toughen her up and Greer’s demand for glamour, Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As the summer unfolds, the consequences of her silence multiply. Another mysterious and powerful family, the Devlins, slowly emerges as the keepers of astonishing secrets that could shatter the Camperdowns. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is poised to become the summer’s uproarious and dramatic must-read.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
I ran into Harry last night," says Riddle Camperdown, beginning a riveting account from novelist and award-winning journalist Kelly (Apologize, Apologize!). The Camperdowns, father Camp, mother Greer, and 12-year-old Riddle, live on Cape Cod in the style of those who have old money. Riddle wants a carefree summer, but her father launches a campaign for Congress. Awkward and moody, Riddle prefers to spend time with her dog and horses—and Harry, the older son of Camp's neighbor, best friend, and rival, Michael Devlin. She questions the relationships among Camp, Greer, and Michael and why Michael writes a book about a World War II incident that might ruin Camp's political career. The exposé is put on hold when Michael's younger son, Charlie, vanishes. Riddle suspects a neighbor's handyman, Gula. In a shocking conclusion, Gula reveals only to Riddle his secret connection to Michael and Camp's wartime past. VERDICT Riddle perfectly narrates the events of one crazy, harrowing summer against the tumultuous backdrop of the 1970s. Written with cutting wit and intensity; it doesn't get any better than this.—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO
The Washington Post - Carolyn See
A wonderful novel is like an orchid: smooth, creamy, full of unexpected crevasses. The more you look at it, the more surprising it is. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns…is like that, giving us characters you've never seen before, worlds we never knew, crimes we never thought of. Of course, some of us raise horses for the fun of it and run for Congress and may be bona fide movie stars, but not too many, and as purely escapist literature, The Last Summer works beautifully.
The New York Times Book Review - Ayana Mathis
Kelly's novel is a coming-of-age meets a whodunit—or maybe a whydunit, since the who is evident fairly early. The bright, snappy language generally serves the story well…the novel is a laugh-out-loud funny page turner.
Publishers Weekly
Kelly’s raucous, deliciously creepy novel about the dysfunction of the über wealthy begins in 1972 as the hoity-toity Camperdown clan prepare for another summer of horseback riding, fox hunting, and hors d’oeuvres in their cushy Cape Cod enclave. Godfrey “Camp” Camperdown, running for a seat in Congress, hobnobs away while his ex-movie-star ice-queen wife Greer—the brawn and beauty behind the campaign—entertains the guests and their 12-year-old daughter Riddle James (named after Jimmy Hoffa), who narrates as an adult. The novel threatens to veer too predictably into Great Gatsby territory (long-buried secrets bubbling to the surface, a sticky love triangle, a sniveling neighbor’s single-minded obsession with breeding gypsy horses) but is saved by precocious Riddle’s dry-witted narration of events, at least until she witnesses a heinous murder and clams up. While what actually happened the night of the crime is made plain early on, Kelly (Apologize, Apologize!) builds suspense by withholding the perpetrator’s motivations and the characters’ knowledge of who did it until the end. When the truth finally emerges amid a whirlwind of flying accusations and shattered lives—in a climax that’s a touch too hurried compared to the book’s languid pace—no one, not even the creepy killer, escapes unscathed. And everyone, at least in part, is to blame. Agent: Molly Friedrich, the Friedrich Agency. (Jun.)
Marcy Dermansky
“There was no putting down this book. Elizabeth Kelly’s riveting The Last Summer of the Camperdowns left me breathless.”
“The best-selling author of Apologize! Apologize! (2009) returns with another witty take on a dysfunctional family… Kelly is a very entertaining writer with a digressive style and a way with metaphor …readers will find much to like in this colorful story peopled with larger-than-life personalities.”
Elin Hilderbrand
“The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is one of the most delightful beach books evah! It is the literary equivalent of a dozen Wellfleet oysters—salty, sweet, sublime.”
Holly LeCraw
“The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is both spooky and smart, with a fun-house-mirror cast of Cape Cod Irish aristocrats like no other. It's as if the Kennedys had catapulted themselves into a tale by Edgar Allen Poe—with rollicking, harrowing, and above all highly entertaining results.”
Carolyn See - Washington Post
“It’s 1972 on Cape Cod, and 13-year-old Riddle Camperdown feels like she’s in heaven. But her father is running for Congress, and an old friend shows up with a memoir that contains embarrassing details. Then Riddle witnesses a murder.”
“Elizabeth Kelly's second novel continues to explore— in her characteristically tight, witty prose—the dysfunctional American family….The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is garnering a lot of comparisons to The Great Gatsby, with its love triangle, dangerous obsessions and undercurrent of violence. But Kelly's novel pushes the boundaries even more, bumping up against absurdity but remaining just credible enough to be, at times, seriously creepy. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, with its vivid and notable Cape Cod setting, is a unique beach read, the kind that might keep you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no one is sneaking up behind your beach chair.”
Good Housekeeping
“Twelve-year-old Riddle James Camperdown witnesses a crime that will change her life and lives of those around her. A story about the family ties, the quest for status, and the secrets that kill.”
Boston Magazine
“[Kelly] takes readers to the Cape of the early 1970s. The narrator, a 12-year-old Wellfleet girl with eccentric ‘Me Decade’ parents—her mother a retired movie star and her father a candidate for Congress—is plunged beneath the surface of the idyllic summer setting when she discovers dark family secrets and witnesses a sinister crime she won’t soon forget.”
Barbara Clark - The Barnstable Patriot
“Kelly has a deceptively low-paced writing style that nevertheless delivers a jolt at every turn. Pungent metaphors often collide and occasionally cancel each other out…. She keeps us on the edge without letting us fall into the gothic trap…. This atmospheric summer read will not disappoint readers looking for a great turn of phrase and a mesmerizing story.”
“These vibrant personalities jump off the page individually, and the collective dynamic is as lifelike and scintillating as beautifully cast actors in an artfully directed play… the scenes and dialogue unravel organically, and razor-sharp witticisms tumble out effortlessly.”
Abbe Wright - O Magazine
“The plot unfolds like the Cape Cod season itself… beginning lazily, languidly, before heating up and morphing into a fast-paced thriller.”
Robin Micheli - People Magazine
“Kelly’s second novel is a witty, suspenseful tale of murder, marital conflict and agonizing secrets…The exuberant story is transporting and delicious, a worthy summer read.”
Ayana Mathis - New York Times Book Review
“Kelly’s novel is a coming-of-age meets a whodunit… A laugh-out-loud funny page turner.”
Julie Buntin - Cosmopolitan
“A novel for the awkward kid in all of us. Thirteen-year-old Riddle Camperdown, with her noisy red hair and retired movie star mother, is on the cusp of her whole life. When Riddle finds herself in possession of a terrible secret, the novel acquires a crackling tension that doesn’t ease until you’ve turned the final page. A pure pleasure read, The Last Summer of the Camperdowns will remind you of sweating glasses of ice tea, fireflies in the backyard, and lost innocence.”
Kirkus Reviews
A 13-year-old girl finds that keeping secrets can have mortal consequences in this scarifying follow-up to Apologize! Apologize! (2009). Kelly's new novel is just as scathingly witty as her best-selling debut but better plotted and even more emotionally harrowing, as narrator Riddle Camperdown looks back two decades to the disastrous summer of 1972. Her affluent family lives in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Her father, Camp, a left-wing Democrat, is running for Congress. Her glamorous mother, retired film star Greer Foley, is far too self-absorbed to care much about the campaign and spends most of her time indulging in lethal witticisms indicating how tiresome she finds her husband and daughter--indeed, pretty much everything except her fascinating self. It's in the barn of Greer's chattering, equally narcissistic stooge, Gin, that Riddle overhears a mysterious scuffle and emerges from a stall to be menaced by sinister stable manager Gula, though he lets her flee to turn his attention to someone moaning in the tack room. The terrified girl doesn't tell her parents, and when they hear about the disappearance of Charlie Devlin, younger son of Greer's old flame Michael, it becomes even more impossible for Riddle to speak up, especially since Gula turns up periodically to hint at unspeakable consequences if she does. There's bad blood between Camp and Michael, dating back to their service in World War II as well as their rivalry over Greer, who still seems oddly intimate with the man who left her at the altar. A series of revelations about Michael Devlin's eldest son Harry's true nature and Greer's wounding breach of faith with her husband are doled out piecemeal, so the reader's growing comprehension mirrors Riddle's reluctant maturing. Kelly skillfully builds almost unbearable tension, slipping in plenty of dark laughs en route to a wrenching climax that leaves in its wake some painfully unresolved questions--just like life. More fine work from a writer with a rare gift for blending wit and rue.

Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Meet the Author

Elizabeth Kelly is the best-selling author of The Last Summer of the Camperdowns (finalist for the New England Society Book Award) and Apologize, Apologize!. She lives in Merrickville, Ontario, with her husband, five dogs, and three cats.

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The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is narrated by an adult lady reflecting on the summer she was 12 years old. At times the book loses its flow, but it quickly recovers each time. Overall I really enjoyed this book and recommend it. The author, Elizabeth Kelly, is a very good writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good novel about the problems of the uber rich.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book about the short comings and preoccupations of the wealthy. Having it narrated by the adult version of Riddle makes it very interesting. The author has a certain dry wit that keeps the novel moving.
Mam3 More than 1 year ago
Great read.
anniemichelle More than 1 year ago
If I did half star reviews this book would get 2 1/2 stars... I found this a little hard to get into.. I guess maybe it was the writing style or maybe the characters or maybe just me. I did however love the name of the main character…12 year old Riddle James Camperdown, called Jimmy by her dad. And named after Jimmy Hoffa, quite the name for a little girl to tote around. The story takes place in 1972 on Cape Cod with Riddle and her self centered and caustic parents, the mother Greer who I must say I did somewhat enjoy her dry, nasty wit and her loud overbearing father who is running for office but, most of the time I just felt sorry for 12 year old Riddle. Riddle witnesses a crime in her neighbors barn and her inability to do or say anything about it is what keeps the story moving along even if it is rather slowly… Everyone has secrets in this book and they are all hiding or keeping them for or from someone else, and this can have interesting and devastating consequences for everyone involved. all in all it is a good, if somewhat slow read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great Read with twist at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a bore! Don't bother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had seen some great reviews of this book and I thought it was just another beach read. However, it was so much more. Couldn't forget it after I finished it. Go and buy this one now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
anonomas More than 1 year ago
Good summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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