By Rebecca Heath

Publisher/Year: Head of Zeus 2023

Publisher’s blurb

An atmospheric psychological thriller about a glamorous family living on the coast of southern Australia. 2023’s most addictive beach read. A perfect family. A devastating secret. Summer, 2000.

In the tranquil town of Queen’s Point in southern Australia, the Whitlam family marks the end of every season with a lavish party in their clifftop mansion. Here, clutching her first glass of real champagne, the summer breeze intoxicating on her skin, sixteen-year-old Lucy Ross is kissed for the very first time. And then, in the shadows of the rose garden, she sees something she shouldn’t.

Winter, 2019. After two decades of silence, Lucy is back in Queen’s Point. She hasn’t planned on staying long. But when human remains wash up on the freezing beach, the police close the town. Unable to leave, Lucy is forced to rekindle old friendships – and examine old truths – she has long ago tried to forget. As long-buried secrets start to surface, Lucy must decide. Will she confront the past and tell the truth? Or will she still do anything to protect the people she loves?

Reviewer: Samantha Battams

A stranger finds a shoe with human remains on a remote beach in South Australia, and the story follows to ascertain whose foot is inside the shoe, and if the person was a victim of murder.

I was excited to read a crime fiction novel from a South Australian author set in a place I was familiar with.

The Summer Party is psychological thriller set somewhere on the eastern side of the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, moving between two time periods: 2000 and 20 years later in the present day. Lucy Antonello/Ross returns to the place where she spent summer as a teenager and met the Whitlam family. Now a young widow herself, Lucy has returned to clean up the cottage of her deceased grandmother who lives next door to the Whitlams.

As a teenager, Lucy looked up to the glamorous, wealthy and entitled Whitlam family (siblings Anabelle, Harry and Mae), and carries her interest across her life to become somewhat obsessed, although she has hardly met them in twenty years. Was Lucy’s arrival in the town after 20 years and the discovery of the shoe a coincidence?

Lucy also becomes reacquainted with the local police officer who she first kissed that summer 20 years ago, but can she trust him to help solve the mystery of the washed-up shoe?

I really enjoyed reading this story. The pace picks up about half-way through. There are many red herrings and twists in the story to spur you on as you keep guessing who the murder or murderers were. Many characters have the motivation to do it!

Like the author, I spent my summer holidays on the Yorke Peninsula growing up (Bluff Beach outside Minlaton). I would have like to have seen more description of place and the type of laid-back, down‑to-earth characters that I was familiar with. However, I could relate to Lucy being an ‘outsider’ at Queen’s Point and the close-knit country community. I wish I had liked Lucy more, but her character’s youthful obsession with the Whitlam’s hasn’t evolved and her values are dubious.

Rebecca Heath is a South Australian author of young adult and children’s novels, and this is her first novel for adults. There is a complexity about the story that is impressive for a debut novel. The story skilfully moves back and forth across time, and across different points of view. I really look forward to reading more adult crime fiction from Rebecca Heath.