Summer is a time to escape, even if you don’t vacation at that time. Around the July 4th holiday, I chose two mysteries as summer escape reading. One is formulaic and the other has some twists at the end that turn typical formulas on their head. Because the author died soon after from cancer, one has a bittersweet edge beyond the story itself. And the other is a love it or hate it book, if reviews from my bookish friends are any indication. 

But the most important escape elements for me were:

  1. The action moves fast
  2. The characters are compelling
  3. The author crafts a viable plot
  4. The book gets me out of my head for a few days

When a book hits all four points, I can’t ask for a better escape!

Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine

This is book five in the Stillhouse Lake series, featuring Gwen Proctor. Now a private investigator, Gwen has history she never seems to outrun. And this book is no exception. At the same time, she’s trying to solve the tragic death of two twin girls. Caine moves the primary narration between three adult characters, Gwen, her BFF, and her love interest. This gives the mystery a well-rounded aspect.

I’m sad this is the last book in the series, and that the author died from cancer. On the other hand, this series seems played out anyway. How many times can the Internet trolls and people with bananas ideas come after Gwen and her family? Still, in terms of its reading escape potential, I give it five stars out of five.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

This book came out in 2017. And it was a sensation! Why? Because the ending is just wacky. It takes a normal domestic psychological thriller and turns it on its head. The story focuses on two women, Adele and Louise. Adele’s husband is also Louise’s boss. The two women are friends, but with a frenemy vibe. 

Essentially, Pinborough crafts a triangle that never quite stabilizes and always keeps you guessing. Both women are damaged, as is David, the boss and husband. No one is warm, fuzzy, and fully likable. And by switching narrators throughout, we learn their intentions. Or at least we think we do. 

I remember all the buzz about “that ending.” So, as I read, I tried to guess what caused such a stir. I didn’t come close to figuring it out. In one way I like that about a book. And I also felt a little betrayed by the author. How could she twist the story in such a perverse way?

Still, in terms of meeting the “escapist” characteristics, this one crossed the required bar.