On New England's Winthrop Island, there are two types of people, the wealthy owners of large homes who visit during the summers and the working-class residents who live there year 'round serving the affluent families. While the island is named after Emilia Winthrop's ancestors, her family no longer owns land and her father serves as the caretaker of Summerly, the home of the Peabody family. In 1946, World War II had ended and most families, including the Winthrops and Peabodys, lost family members. Twenty-one-year-old Emilia (known as Cricket) reconnects with Shep Peabody, her childhood friend and now a war hero. His Aunt Olive moves into their guesthouse for the season with her children. Olive's sophistication fascinates Emilia, who dreams of leaving the island one day. The story, which also takes place in 1954, reveals that tragedies have taken place on the island and Emilia had been recruited by the FBI to help them catch a Soviet spy hiding out within Summerly, transmitting information on America's atomic weapons program.
I have read all of the books the wonderful Beatriz Williams has written, including her collaborations with authors Karen White and Lauren Willig. She's a great storyteller within the historical fiction genre and often blends mystery and intrigue into her stories. The location of Winthrop Island was a backdrop for The Summer Wives (2018) and some characters in this book were introduced in Our Woman in Moscow (2021). It is not necessary to have read either before reading The Beach at Summerly. References to places and characters are enjoyable easter eggs Williams often gives to her long-time readers and sometimes, she ties up a few loose ends from previous books. I generally gravitate to historical stories set during WWII or the Jazz Age, but I am finding the post-WWII era, which involves the Cold War and McCarthyism, to be very interesting and eye-opening. Once again, Williams has delivered another strong read.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: June 27, 2023.
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