Best friends Evelyn and Mina were 10 years old when they summoned a spirit to do their bidding. They wanted to clear Evelyn’s father of suspicion in the mysterious drowning deaths of three Long Island teenagers known as the Cliffside Trio. Six years later, the girls are still paying the price: Mina has a painful scar on her wrist in the shape of a sand dollar, and Evelyn’s family has collapsed. Even the girls’ friendship couldn’t survive the fallout.
When Evelyn gets caught in an academic cheating scandal, she summons another spirit to salvage her college prospects, but the consequences are even more disastrous. The only person who can help Evelyn out of her supernatural mess is Mina, but it won’t be easy. The malevolent spirit not only haunts the girls but also draws power from tormenting the souls of the Cliffside Trio. Evelyn and Mina’s attempts to investigate and banish the spirit reveal secrets and cover-ups, not to mention a budding romance. It’s soon clear that they’ll have to risk everything to discover the truth.
In The Drowning Summer, Christine Lynn Herman’s elaborate ghost mythos departs significantly from typical haunted house narratives. The souls of the novel’s dead dwell in the ocean, where they can be called upon by the living to vanquish problems, as Evelyn and Mina did when they were children. Readers who enjoy detailed world building will find their appetites thoroughly satisfied by Herman’s creative framework.
In addition to a compelling ghost story, however, The Drowning Summer is a deft exploration of both girls’ grounded, authentic family dynamics. In a well-intended but misguided attempt to protect Mina from danger, Mina’s mother unintentionally puts her daughter in harm’s way. Meanwhile, Evelyn’s older sister, who is still reeling from their parents’ divorce and their mother’s abandonment, causes additional hurt to their suffering father.
Herman struggles at times to craft a mystery as absorbing as her story’s supernatural and interpersonal elements. For instance, the novel establishes that Evelyn’s father had the means to commit the Cliffside Trio murders, but never indicates what his motive would have been. Most mystery enthusiasts will nonetheless find the compounding clues and the novel’s resolution fulfilling.
Fans of Shea Ernshaw, Kerri Maniscalco or the CW’s “Nancy Drew” will love The Drowning Summer’s blend of supernatural thrills, cold-case mystery and sweet romance. It’s an empowering tale about working through family trauma and rising above expectations.