Thursday 8 August 2013


Book review: Cruel Summer by James Dawson

My edition: Paperback, published on 1 August 2013 by Indigo, 234 pages.

Description: A year after Janey's suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them.

However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer.

Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

A compelling and psychological thriller - with a dash of romance.


One year since they left school and their friend Janey committed suicide after the leavers' ball, Ryan, Alisha, Ben, Katie, and Greg reunite for a summer break in Spain. What should've been a relaxing holiday to reconnect with old friends and put the tragic loss of Janey behind them, quickly turns into a nightmare when an ex-schoolmate shows up claiming that Janey didn't commit suicide but was in actual fact murdered! The group doesn't believe Roxanne at first but when the next day she's found dead in the pool, the former friends quickly turn on one another as they realise that one of them is the killer and all of their lives are in danger...

I found Cruel Summer to be a more intricate and grown-up version of the Point Horror novels I devoured in my early teens. It has all the same aspects of the classic book series but the characters are more fleshed out and realistic, and the "whodunnit" wasn't as predictable. In fact, author James Dawson very cleverly gave all the characters motive and opportunity at some point during the story progression, making the reader suspect each one in turn and only moments before the big reveal did I arrive at the correct conclusion. He not only kept the characters but also the reader on their toes throughout.

Another aspect that sets this novel apart from similar themed ones in the YA genre is the interesting voice of Ryan. In alternating chapters we see the story unfold through the eyes of Ryan and Alisha, but it's the former in particular who stands out as a character. Ryan is very theatrical and dramatic and he pretends he is living in a TV-show. To him Janey's death was the cliffhanger of the previous series and now he tries to figure out what would be the logical next step for the storyline to take, befitting a classic television format with stereotypical characters, flashback scenes and taking into consideration commercial breaks and sweeps.

Despite the concept of the novel not being an original one, after all this is not the first time we're reading about a diverse group of teenagers stuck in a remote location with a killer on the loose, the excellent execution made this a worthwhile and gripping summer novel. It is perhaps not the ideal choice to pack for your own holiday to Spain, unless you have nerves of steel, but it is a solid read and makes me keen to check out Dawson's debut, Hollow Pike, which was released last year.

Order your copy of Cruel Summer now from,, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about author James Dawson? You can connect with her online at:



Twitter: @_jamesdawson


My review of Cruel Summer originally appeared on

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  1. I'm really looking forward to reading this! Literally all of the reviews I've seen so far were great so I've a good feeling about this book. So glad you enjoyed it :)

    1. Are you familiar with the Point Horror novels? Because then you kind of know what to expect, except better :)


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