In broad terms, Eden Baylee has chosen a familiar structure for this excellent debut mystery, gathering a disparate group of people in a restricted location and charting their interactions. But there’s a difference. A carefully written prologue reveals the fact that a crime has been committed and observed but, while we know the gender of perpetrator and observer, we don’t know who they or the victim are. So, as the various participants in the drama are introduced and the tensions, dislikes, attractions, angers and suspicions between them grow, the reader is drawn into speculating which of them will be killed, who’ll do it and who’ll see it happen. It adds an extra layer of mystery which engages you from the start.
The setting, a beautiful luxury resort in
owned by a couple who are upset by a negative review which has affected their
business. The guests are a mix of individuals, some of whom they know, others
whom they’re welcoming for the first time. Relationships, antagonisms, intrigues
develop quickly, all conveyed in skilfully written conversations which convey
their characters and reveal their insecurities, flaws and talents. Baylee’s gift
for dialogue is very impressive and, as we get to know these people and start
speculating on who’ll be involved in the crime, secrets begin to emerge and the
pace draws us along.
The central character, psychiatrist Kate Hampson, has her own ghosts and devils and emerges as a strongly-drawn character. It was no surprise to discover at the end of the book that she’ll be featuring in a sequel (and probably many more).
Stranger at Sunset is an enveloping, layered read that intrigues from beginning to end and beyond.