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The Bay at Midnight - Diane Chamberlain

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Diane Chamberlain / Paperback / 512 Pages / Book is published 2010-01-01 by Mira Books

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    5 Reviews
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      08.02.2011 08:20
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      A fantastic who dunnit with a lot of heart and a box full of secrets.

      The summer of 1962 was no different to many for the Bauer family, they were spending it together at their summer cottage in Bay Head Shores, a place that they all cherished as a place to get away from everything. The canal that ran behind the house was a great place to fish or take a trip in the boat, the bay was a wonderful place to swim or sunbathe with friends. What young girls wouldn't enjoy spending time here.

      The truth is the Bauer sisters were never happier than when they were at the summer house. Isabel, 17 is surrounded by a gaggle of girlfriends who spend their time on the beach soaking up both the sun and the adoration of the summer boys. Twelve year old Julie loves the chance to sneak over and hang out with her new coloured friends on the other side of the river, and collecting clues that she keeps in a box hidden in the back yard in the hope that she might solve a mystery just like her heroine Nancy Drew. Finally young Lucy who is terrified of everything that moves and most of the things that don't as well, even she manages to enjoy her summers in Bay Head Shores, as long as they don't involve her getting any further into the water than knee height.
      All those fond summer memories were lost one night when the news came to the family that beautiful seventeen year old Isabel had been found dead in the Bay. There are so many questions to be answered. Why was Isabel out in the bay in nothing but her swimsuit alone at night? Who could she have been meeting? Why did she tell no-one where she was going? And most important of all who had caused the marks on her body and ultimately killed this young girl?
      What happened in the Bay at Midnight?

      I spotted this book in the 3 for 2 offer at my local bookshop and was enticed in by it's cover as well as the fact that it mentioned one of my favourite author's Jodi Picoult as someone similar to Diane Chamberlain. I was very glad I picked this one up as although due to training commitments it has taken me a long time to get into this one, I have just spent a week off my regime due to inury and had two night where I couldn't bear to turn the light off because I needed to know what was going to happen next with the bay at midnight. Not wanting to sleep is always a sign of a great novel.
      I loved the way that the story was told from different perspectives, mainly Julie and Lucy the two remaining sisters as their mother Maria. I found this way of writing really helped to bring out different aspects of the story, especially as it developed further and you found out more about the family secrets, especially from Maria who's looks back to the past really made her character more real for me. It also made me empathise with her a lot more when the final secrets came out towards the end of the story.

      I found the relationship between Julie and her teenage daughter Shannon very interesting because it showed how a tragedy in your life can affect your relationship with those close to you, even if it happened a long time ago. Shannon had never known her aunt and also had never know a time when her mother was carefree and afraid of nothing. She only knew her mother as someone she classed as uptight and over protective. But in reality Julie was made the way she was because of her reaction to Isabel's death, it made her afraid to let Shannon have too much freedom in case she would lose her too.
      Another thing that made this book great for me was the fact that I never saw it ending the way it did and this is something that I relish in a good mystery novel, as I do seem to be pretty adept as figuring out the twists that no one else sees, but I have to admit this one defeated me and I did swap my could it be killer at least three times throughout the novel. I loved that Chamberlain managed to keep me guessing right until the end.

      Definitely a five out of five from me, one to watch out for if you haven't already read one of Diane chamberlain's novel get out there and find one trust me this one is worth it. I have already bought two more of her books on the strength of this one, here's hoping they are just as good.

      Also written on ciao under my username emsi

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        25.05.2010 00:31
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        a good read!

        Having previously enjoyed The Lost Daughter by Diane Chamberlin when I came across The Bay at Midnight I checked it out. The Bay at Midnight tells the story of one family whose life was turned upside down by a devastating event that took place in the summer of 1962. The story is told through the eyes of three generations of the same family, sisters Julie and Lucy and their mother Maria.

        Their family cottage was a place of innocence and they spent many happy summers there, that was until Julie and Lucy's older sister Isabel was murdered. The era of the 60's is one in which racism and prejudice is always in the background, whether that be Maria's Italian heritage or the friction caused by Julie socialising with some black teenagers. In fact it is one of these teenagers, George Lewis, who was accused of the murder simply because of the colour of his skin.

        40 years later, the grown up Julie receives a call from someone from her past who is asking questions about what really happened. A cryptic letter has been discovered which sheds new light on the case and it appears that there has been a huge miscarriage of justice with the wrong person, who has now died, being sent to prison. Julie had a part in the chain of events leading to Isabel's death and has always been racked with guilt as she believes she is to blame. However, as we learn, her role is insignificant compared to those of the adults present at the time and the secret her mother has kept from them all.

        The story flicks between the summer of '62 and the present day and each chapter is told through the eyes of Julie, Maria or Lucy. In some books this moving between past and present can be confusing, but not in this case, not even with three characters telling the story. The story develops to a climax around three quarters of the way through to the day of the murder. There were plenty of twists and turns and I was kept guessing right to the end as to who was responsible for Izzy's death.

        Each of the characters is really well developed, as is the relationship between them, and you really see how their lives have really been shaped by the events of that fateful summer. As the story progresses we see each of the characters coming to terms with what happened and their role in the chain of events leading up to it.

        The story was fast paced and kept my attention throughout. There were times when I couldn't put it down and found myself still reading at 1.30 in the morning! I have to say though that I didn't find this as compelling as The Lost Daughter (reviewed separately). That particular book raised a lot of emotions for me and the characters stayed with me some time after reading the book. This story, whilst very good, didn't have the same impact on me. That shouldn't detract you from trying this though as it is a great story in it's own right and had I not read The Lost Daughter I would have loved it more.

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        13.03.2010 11:40
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        Another cracking story from Diane Chamberlain

        During the summer of 1962 the Bauer family are enjoying their usual summer holiday tradition down in their bungalow on the Jersey shore. That summer though, everything would change forever as seventeen years old Isobel is found murdered.

        Decades later, Isobel's younger sisters, (Julie and Lucy) their mum Maria and the Chapman family are all still haunted by the past - not to mention the boy who went to prison for Isobel's murder.

        Except, it now looks like the boy convicted of the murder may have been innocent after all, just like Julie suspected for all these years. When Ethan Chapman's daughter comes to tell Julie that Ned Chapman, Isobel's sweetheart, has died after many years of depression and alcohol abuse, they are transported back to that summer. They find a note amongst Ned's possessions that says he knows who really killed Isobel that summer.

        This new piece of evidence, more than forty years after the original murder raises many more questions that Julie hadn't expected, how Julie has lived with the guilt over her part in her sister's death, about her own family secrets that have played their part in this crime and about who has walked free of Isobel's murder for all these years. As hard as it will be, Julie and her family must revisit the past that they have tried so hard to bury and find out what really happened.

        This is the second Diane Chamberlain book I have read, picking this one out because I really enjoyed "The Lost Daughter". This book certainly had the same feel to it that the previous book did, like a better written version of a Jodi Picoult book is what springs to mind!

        As you can see from the summary, this book is part family exploration and part murder mystery which is an excellent combination if it is done correctly - which I am pleased to say, is! To make it slightly more interesting, there are three points of view in this book from Isobel's mother, Maria and Isobel's two sisters, Julie and Lucy.

        Julie is growing through her own crisis with her seventeen year old daughter. Julie was just twelve years old when Isobel died, but the events leading up to her sister's death still haunt her now. Lucy's take on things is slightly vaguer as she was only eight years old at the time of the murder and barely remembers anything except how terrified she was of just about everything that summer. Both women's stories flit between that summer and the present day where they have become completely different women.

        The point of view of Isobel's mother, Maria, comes a bit later in the story although the reader learns about her from the daughters points of views. However, Maria's story is perhaps the most interesting of all the women. Her point of view spans her first memories at the bay when she was growing up, before the Second World War, during that fateful summer and now as an elderly woman. Her part of the story is touching, interesting added to the mystery of the whole book.

        As I experienced in her previous book, Diane Chamberlain seems to be a master in creating atmosphere and suspense in her stories. Although the reader is aware straight away that Isobel died in 1962, it isn't until about half way through the book that we find out exactly what happened to her that night. Each flashback from each of the women reveals something more each time of the days leading up to her death but then we are taken right back to the modern day, which only made me want to read on more.

        Also I was extremely impressed by how well the secondary stories in the book were just as interesting to read about as the main plot. In the present story, Julie is rekindling her friendship with bay next door neighbour Ethan under the difficult circumstances of suspecting his brother of the murder of Isobel, whilst her seventeen year old daughter has fallen pregnant by a man ten years her senior. Maria, on the other hand, is happy with her life until Ned and Ethan's father, now an elderly man himself, comes to visit her to lay the past to rest. Although not as exciting as finding out the truth of what happened in 1962, I read these sections with interest and never felt compelled to skim read until I got to the main story (which I have been known to do in other books!)

        Once more of the story is revealed, I would imagine that most readers would put all the pieces of the story together and realise how the events of that summer came about, I know I did, but it certainly didn't take the enjoyment away from reading the ending, plus there were a few surprises along the way so some element of surprise was kept.
        I am not let down by my second Chamberlain book, its thought provoking, tackles various interesting subjects whilst the writing is always superb. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

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          21.02.2010 12:49
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          a family loses a daughter...the truth is not what it seems

          The day that Marilyn Monroe died, was also the day that the Bauer family lost Isabel, one of three sisters in "The Bay at Midnight", as the title suggests, through in circumstances not made clear until quite far into the book. That day everything changed forever, but decades later long lost memories are to be resurrected. The case will be re-examined both by the Police and the people involved as the existence of a letter from recently deceased Ned Chapman, the boy next door and Isabel's boyfriend, is revealed. Was the person convicted for the killing guilty? Why does Julie, Isabel's sister feel so guilty about her death and how does losing someone affect everyone else? All of these themes are examined through this book leading to some interesting revelations.

          Diane Chamberlain has written a compelling mystery thriller, that I found to be interesting on many levels. Narrated from the point of view of three female characters, Maria (the mother) and the surviving siblings, Julie and Lucy, the story is a tale of family, female relationships and coming of age. The setting of a house by the sea provides the perfect scene for the characters to remember the time before Isabel died, a seemingly innocent time of sunbathing, floating in inner tubes in the canal, fishing and if you are the eldest sister Isabel, being a teenager and discovering who she is, before her life is cut tragically short.

          As the story unfolds it is soon clear that things are not as clear-cut as they seem, in the 1960's bigotry and prejudice are never far under the surface, if you are Italian you might have been unsuitable marriage material in your youth, if you are black maybe you risk being accused of murder just by dint of the colour of your skin, and as the story moves to the present day it becomes clear that throughout the generations even the most seemingly perfect straight A-grade student may not be all that they seem.

          The tale spans three generations from Maria, an octogenarian and mother to Isabel, through to Shannon, her grand daughter. There was something very believable about this family, a fact which was also true about the other family in this novel, the next door Chapmans. As Julie rediscovers her buried memories about the time her sister was killed, and meets Ethan Chapman, brother to Ned who has left the letter which is the catalyst to the action in the book, all is gradually and skillfully revealed by the author.

          I found that the book was well written, and though I did struggle at first with there being 3 narrators to the story, having different points of view did make for interesting reading. As the novel went between different time periods - the 60's, the War years when Maria was a teenager herself, I found it interesting to see the characters at different points of time. I never was unconvinced that events and their history would have made them the people they were in the present. Julie was shown to change from a sassy risk-taker 12 year old to a rather more fearful adult whose fears mean she risks pushing her own daughter, Shannon, away. That she would change from being a Nancy Drew obsessed teenager, to being a successful crime writer when an adult, conveniently placed to analyse the crime of her sister's murder, was also somehow quite logical and didn't seem contrived.

          The events, setting and dialogue were all very convincing, apart from a couple of times where I felt that the word "spaz" - certainly not an acceptable insult these days, had been used between the teenage sisters as a put down rather too self-consciously. That apart I thoroughly enjoyed the journey in this book, and the way the mother-daughter relationships were betrayed, even given the subject matter.

          This is the second book I have read from this author - I enjoyed "The Lost Daughter" but thought that this was a more confident and better paced book. I do think that Chamberlain should lose the "for fans of Jodi Picoult this is a must read" tag line from the blurb at the back of her books - there are similarities and this book does sit in the same genre, but I feel it does her a disservice. I feel that this book establishes this author nicely as much deserving of her own fans, and I will consider myself one of them as I look forward to reading "Before the Storm", her next book, the first chapter of which is at the end of this book.

          If you enjoy this type of book you will, no doubt like this; it is a light but thought-provoking read which held my interest throughout its 400 and so pages. I didn't see the end coming, but the plot was so skillfully woven that everything made total sense in the end, and the characters lived for me even once I had put this book down, wishing it could go on some more. Thoroughly recommended.

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            09.01.2010 13:01
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            Move over Jodi Picoult, there's a new writer in town

            The Bauer family spent their summers in a cottage by the beach, an idyllic location for their daughters to grow up in peaceful surroundings. The three daughters were all very different; teenager Isabel was a bit of a rebel who would argue with her mother and sneak off to meet Ned Chapman her next door neighbour and boyfriend, twelve year old Julie loved fishing and mystery stories and baby of the family Lucy liked to stay close to home.

            The family was shattered when Isabel's body was found floating in the water of the bay after she had sneaked out to meet her boyfriend Ned at midnight after Julie did not pass on a message that he could not make their secret rendezvous . A young black man was found guilty of the crime and although the family appeared to move on they had never fully recovered from their loss and Isabel's death remains the elephant in the room, the one topic the family never discusses. Old wounds are reopened when more than 40 years later Isabel's teenage boyfriend Ned Chapman dies leaving a note for the police saying that the wrong man was incarcerated for Isabel's murder. Will the family ever discover what happened at the bay at midnight all those years ago and can old wounds ever be healed?

            The story is told through three different voices, those of surviving sisters Julie and Lucy and their mother Diana. The book talks about life both before and after Isabel's murder and explores the reactions the women have to the news that the murder investigation will be reopened. The three women's lives have all been altered as a result of what happened all those years ago with both Julie and Maria feeling a sense of guilt believing that their actions somehow contributed to Isabel's death. The family also make contact with the Chapman family, their old neighbours from 40 years ago and it becomes clear that the two families lives will forever be linked as a result of what has happened.

            As well as being a detective story the book is also the story about three generations of women and how they relate to one another, especially mother and daughters. Julie now has a teenage daughter who is the same age as Isabel was when she died, like all mothers she watches her daughter growing up with a sense of pride longing to keep Shannon close and protect her from the big bad world but teenagers have their own ideas about how they want to live their lives.

            Diane Chamberlain is a writer I had never heard of before I picked up this book and I am very glad I have discovered her books. The blurb on the back of the book describes this book as being a must for any fans of Jodi Picoult and all I can say is move over Jodi, there's a new writer in town. There are some similarities between Picoult's books and Chamberlain's writing, the book is told through three different viewpoints and moves between different time periods but is not cluttered by confusing sub plots and sensationalist subjects so is a much nicer read. The book was more about human relationships than a murder and the characters were well developed, believable and likable. The story was also believable and I wanted to read on and find out more, the only thing I didn't like about the book was that it took a long time to get into the main story, earlier parts of the book were paced a little too slowly for my liking and I thought that the book could have been shorter than 400 pages long..

            I really enjoyed reading The Bay at Midnight by Diane Chamberlain, a real page turner combining a mystery story with touching accounts of family life over three generations and I will be looking out for more books that she has written.

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