Karen M. McManus’ latest thriller is a layered whodunit that takes its time unpacking several generations’ worth of deceit and cruelty.
When Mildred Story invites her three grandchildren to spend the summer working at the resort she owns on Gull Cove Island, it’s a loaded proposition. Milly, Aubrey and Jonah barely know each other, and they don’t know their grandmother at all. Mildred is wealthy, and her decision to disinherit her children left the Story family fractured and alienated from one another. The Cousins at the heart of this mystery are tentatively curious to learn more about their family, and once they reach the island, secrets begin to come to light.
The story jumps around quite a bit by design, as chapters alternate from each cousin’s perspective and also flash back to their parents’ youth. The suspense ebbs and flows while each Story’s story plays out. Milly had hoped to grow close to the grandmother she’s named for, but Mildred flatly ignores her in favor of Aubrey. At first, Aubrey is flattered by the attention, until she realizes she’s being rewarded for compliance (but compliance with what, exactly?). Jonah keeps his head down, but his strategy of trying to stay in the background only takes him so far; when the spotlight finds him, it’s damaging to everyone.
McManus (One of Us Is Lying) populates the island’s atmospheric, Hitchcockian scenery with eccentric characters, many of whom have ties to the Story family, and slowly reveals the event that shattered their lives. The conclusion that follows is terrifically choreographed. A relationship predicated on false identity turns out to be clever foreshadowing; readers who enjoy a romantic storyline intertwined with their mysteries will be all in.
Curl up with The Cousins on a chilly day, and you’ll swear you can hear howling wind and crashing waves just outside your door.