Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Psychological thriller
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words
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Richard Godwin is a widely published author, with a focus on horror and crime, and a playwright. He has written two full length novels – Apostle Rising and Mr Glamour and has contributed multiple short stories to anthologies.
You can learn more about the author on his website.
It is high summer and Rex Allen moves into his new house, The Telescope. Barely has he begun to unpack when his attractive neighbor, Evangeline Glass, invites him to one of her regular parties.
Rex finds himself obsessing on Evangeline. He begins to immerse himself in her life, filming her at first, then following her movements, convinced there’s more to her than meets the eye. When Rex discovers Evangeline’s secret he persuades her to visit him for a two hour period each week and to become another person – Coral.
Mr Godwin reveals the plot underlying One Lost Summer like a card sharp. He steadily doles out the pack one by one, hiding the trumps with clever sleight of hand, only revealing the complete set right at the conclusion. This is a clever, intelligent psychological thriller.
The characters are all very strong, every one is an enigma; no one is quite what they seem. Even when the reader thinks they have the person figured out the author flips their behavior again, shows a little more of their personality and position.
First and foremost is Rex who doesn’t really know himself. He’s clearly wealthy, but there’s no clue how he’s made his money. He drinks a lot of the best wine and whisky. His behavior is abnormal - recording Evangeline on film, often not washing, hearing things in the house – he’s edgy for some buried reason. And as the tale is told in the first person through Rex the reader is as puzzled as the protagonist.
Then there’s enigmatic Evangeline, who tries to control everyone and everything around her, but actually is the one being contained. She has plenty of secrets herself. And her husband Harry – possessive of his wife and possessing a dubious background. Finally the lesser characters - the hangers-on and party goers such as weak willed Brenda and her husband.
After an initial chapter setting the scene, where Rex moves into his new house (called The Telescope because the previous owner had the instruments all over the house – perhaps to watch Evangeline too?) and meets her, the tension and mystery quickly build. There are plenty of puzzles (and blind alleys) laid out for the reader.
The layout and style of One Lost Summer is interesting. The chapters are short, and the book is broken into sections, each titled to reveal in themselves a little more of the plot. The writing is economical and tightly focused. The attributes of each character are usually strikingly described – such as the clothes they wear, the patterns, the brands (Chanel, Montrachet wine). It all subtly adds to the ambience without being distracting and is key in the psychological process of Rex working on Evangeline.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this work. With summer apparently approaching this would make an excellent holiday read.
Nothing of note.
Rating: ***** Five Stars