Bittersweet is a new novel from Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, author of The Effects of Light, set in the upper echelons of an old moneyed, American family’s summer retreat. Maybel Dagmar follows her uni roommate, the gorgeous Ev Winslow, to stay with her and her family for the summer. She hopes it will be the start of a life long friendship, something to change her dreary small town life. However, the Winslow’s have many dark secrets and when Mabel meets Indo, Ev’s eccentric aunt, she asks Mabel to uncover the records of her Van Gogh painting, and other family secrets, in exchange for her house (yes, I too like to give away expensive real estate in exchange for some Nancy Drew-ing).
Mabel, who’s possessed by an underlying greed, accepts the challenge and starts looking through records and diaries to uncover a history of theft, abuse, murder and duplicity that rots under the placid surface of the seemingly perfect family.
I enjoyed this book a lot – it started off slow, making you wonder why Ev was so two-faced and Mabel such a loser, then, as it drops hint after hint about family secrets, missing paintings and buckets of money, the pace picks up considerably. Mabel herself is not free from suspicion; she is awfully keen to get the house and join the Winslow family (with her heart set upon the shy and good looking older brother, Galway), and it turns out she has some dark secrets of her own to hide.
I thought Bittersweet was well written and engaging – there are thriller, mystery, romance and coming of age elements that make this a uniquely-paced and fascinating read – who is lying, who knows the truth, who is a killer in the midst of a wealthy and secretive family?