ARC Review: Small Island Thriller

Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

Publication Date: May 23, 2023

Summary from NetGalley:

None of them would claim to be a particularly good person. But who among them is actually capable of murder?

Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker rule the town of Salcombe, Fire Island every summer. They hold sway on the beach and the tennis court, and are adept at manipulating people to get what they want. Their husbands, Sam and Jason, have summered together on the island since childhood, despite lifelong grudges and numerous secrets. Their one single friend, Rachel Woolf, is looking to meet her match, whether he’s the tennis pro—or someone else’s husband. But even with plenty to gossip about, this season starts out as quietly as any other.

Until a body is discovered, face down, off the side of the boardwalk.

Stylish, subversive, and darkly comedic, this is a story of what’s lurking under the surface of picture-perfect lives in a place where everyone has something to hide.

ARC provided by Flatiron Books via NetGalley for an honest review.


This book opens with a body being discovered, but it is not until the very end that we learn the how and whys of this person ending up dead. I was at first impatient about that, I wanted to know what had happened to this poor dead person, but I soon realized that we really needed to understand the people involved before we could get to what happened. Plus I had a lot of fun guessing who might have ended up dead!

There are many, many points of view given in this book, but there are six people who mostly drive the narrative. Jen, Sam, Lauren and Jason have been coming to Fire Island for years and on the surface are the best of friends. Through their eyes and the eyes of many others on the Island we see a group of friends who keep secrets from each other and in some cases actually loathe each other. The other two main pov we get are Rachael, the lonely single who is the main gossip and snoop and Robert, the tennis pro.

This is very much a character driven plot, and most of these characters are not very likable. Sam was the only really likable person of the core four, but in the end he proves to be just as despicable as the others. I also sort of like Robert, but I think it was mostly sympathy for his lot in life, as he ends up being not such a nice guy. All of the women were awful, and I had no sympathy for any of them. I usually don’t enjoy so many pov, as it is hard to keep track of them, but it seemed to work in this case. I also really liked that there were many instances where the same event was told from many different perspectives. I loved how different those perspectives were, and how the different characters interpreted the event.

I loved the setting of Fire Island. It definitely had a small town feel, where everyone knew everyone’s business. There was also a lot of sleeping around and pretending to like people when interacting with them, but privately loathing them and talking nastily about them behind their backs. I also found it interesting, that most of these people did not interact with each other outside of the few summer months they spent on the island.

The plot was very well done as we were slowly lead up to the events of what happened to the person who died at the start of the book. There was a big twist at the end that was quite the surprise, but made sense with the rest of the story. I also liked that we got a glimpse of the aftermath a few months later after the ‘murder’ was solved.

I think this will make a great summer beach read. The characters, while not likable, will certainly keep you entertained and the story will keep you turning those pages in the hot summer sun.

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