FOR ALL the annual, marketing-driven talk of "summer beach reads," I find my own reading preferences are the reverse of that seasonal imperative: The Portland winter requires books that're fast paced and absorbing, the better to distract from the fact that it's been raining for 47 days and I seem to have forgotten how to smile. Summer afternoons spent reading in the sun are better suited to books that're dense enough to disappear into for lazy hours at a time.
So maybe it's a good thing that Portland's been dragging its feet on summer, because Alafair Burke's Never Tell provided a perfect distraction from last week's unseasonable rain. A procedural set in the world of Manhattan's über rich, Burke's diverting new novel is the fourth book featuring hottie cop Ellie Hatcher, a former beauty queen turned hard-boiled NYPD detective.
When Ellie is called to investigate the death of 16-year-old Julia Whitmire, who was found with slit wrists in the bathtub, she's quick to call the case a suicide—a suicide note is found, and Julia's got poor-little-rich-girl written all over her. Under pressure from Julia's parents, though, Ellie begins a reluctant murder investigation, and soon finds there's more to Julia's death than meets the eye. (Aren't mystery novels great?)
Never Tell gets a bit ridiculous toward its conclusion, as disparate plot threads—involving anonymous blog comments, teen Adderall abuse, and mixed-up street kids, among other things—wrap up to provide a neat solution to the mystery of Julia's death. But through it all, Burke's writing is brisk and sharp, and her glimpse into the world of Manhattan's super-rich teenaged elite makes for a diverting read, no matter the season.