BOOKS ON TOUR – The Beach Party by Amy Sheppard

Katie and Sophie become close friends at university, and during their time there they start a regular true-crime podcast called “Small Town” which covers cold cases of murders in small towns that have never been solved. But after they leave university, Sophie’s life is on a different trajectory. She starts gaining popularity as a fashion and beauty influencer, with an increasing number of followers. Inevitably, the podcast takes a backseat for quite some time but then, out of the blue, Sophie tells Katie that there’s been an exciting development and that “Small Town” is about to be resurrected.

She’s been approached by a radio station wanting the podcast to run a series of episodes focussing on one unsolved small-town murder. They’ve given her free reign to choose any murder she’d like to focus on, and she tells Katie that she’s decided the podcast will be about the murder of Lacey Crew that happened 5 years previously … in Katie’s Cornwall hometown of Pengully. But, the plot thickens, as it’s not only Katie’s hometown, but also that of Tom, Sophie’s live-in boyfriend, who she met through Katie! And both Katie and Tom were there at the same beach party with Lacey the night she died.

In order to get this podcast produced, they’re all going to have to head for Pengully and take up residence for a few weeks while their podcast and investigation is underway. From the second that Sophie suggests that they’re doing this, Katie absolutely knows it’s a bad idea. But what Sophie wants, Sophie gets and Katie knows that it’s pointless to disagree.

So the trio arrives in Pengully; Sophie enthusiastic and seemingly unaware of the rising tension between Katie and Tom, and the amount of negative emotion and disturbance that stirring up the case again might cause to the residents who have had to live with the fact that the murder of a 19-year-old girl has gone unsolved for 95 years.

Told by Katie, with flashbacks to the beach party itself, readers need to decide for themselves if she’s a reliable narrator, or if her opinions of Lacey and the way that Lacey treated her have somehow tainted the way she remembers things. I found this to be a clever treatment of the narrative and found myself fluctuating between how I felt about both Katie and Lacey.

I also found the dynamics between Katie, Sophie and Tom particularly interesting. Awkward at best with the potential to be volatile if given the chance to reach that breaking point. I truly wondered how Katie tolerated what seemed like a cruel situation. But then, on the other hand, I was also yelling at her in my head, telling her to grow a backbone and tell them to go get a room in the nearest B & B! Sophie may have been a popular influencer, but this is one follower who wasn’t partial to her particular brand.

Any small-town drama is a hotbed of secrets, lies and memories that may not be altogether truthful, and Pengully is no different. The story is evenly paced, and I was honestly gob-smacked at the twist! Well played, Amy Sheppard!

Thank you to Bookouture for the Books On Tour …

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