The possibility of a $100 million dollar inheritance wields a seductive dilemma for identical twins Summer and Iris. At first glance the two seem close but are in fact impulsively at odds with each other. While Iris attempts to flee from her problems in New Zealand to the family home in Wakefield Beach, Queensland, Summer and her husband, Adam, are thousands of miles away, sailing on their glamorous yacht Bathsheba. Though her sister is gone, Iris can still smell Summer--the smell of innocent things, of suntan lotion and apples on the beach. Sitting in the living room with decadent views of the beach, Iris has come to the realization that her twin sister is not so innocent after all. Bathsheba will never be hers: "It feels as though Summer is sleeping in my bed on my yacht."
Forced into a reckoning with her mother, Annabeth, Iris chooses instead to focus on Summer and Adam's need to get Bathsheba out of Thailand. The twins hatch a plan: Summer will stay in Phuket with her young son, Tarquin, and his "festering genitalia," while Iris will leave behind the festering wrath of her mother, her failed job. failed marriage, "and her failed life" and sail across the Indian Ocean on the yacht she has loved since childhood.
I felt constantly at odds with Carlyle's constantly uneven suspense thriller. Though her prose is often amateurish, it is impossible to resist her satisfying thriller. It has enough "gotcha" moments to metaphorically connect with a dark, deep secret and the possibility of the inheritance from the twins' father, Ridgeford "Ridge" Carmichael, a typical self-made Aussie man who hated the idea of his money being lost. His children, Ben, Summer and Iris ("the unexpected twin, the surplus twin" all know their place in the family. Like a medieval lord, this grand patriarch wanted his money to stay in the family for as many generations as possible.
Insecure Iris arrives in Phuket and is at once attracted to sweet, musky Adam. She knowshow to play shadow and the ultimate accessory to Summer, whose beauty seems to be everywhere "like the first rose of spring." Alone with Summer on the Bathsheba, Iris's body rocks to the sweet rhythm of the tropical sea, and the lightest zephyr, the ghost of the night breeze." Only Summer can be blamed for the disintegration of Iris's doomed marriage. As sun rises golden above Thailand and as the land fades to a low silhouette, Iris falls into the rhythm of the Bathsheba: "this is what I am born for. This is being alive."
From here the novel morphs into a missing person's saga, a coverup and a sinister plot that centers on the minutiae of Summer's surprise pregnancy. While Summer's presence grows more pervasive, Iris's curiosity unearths a secret. As the daily sailing concerns infiltrate their privileged world, Iris admits that from the age of fourteen, she has played along with Summer's "sweet dream," pretending that her will wasn't going to stop her marrying for love: "They were competing for a 100 million dollars; no one else was in the running."
Though the narrative is fast-paced, and there are some titillating (if corny) sexual passages (I couldn't help thinking whether they were perhaps part of the author's own fantasies), none of what unfolds is particularly believable--particularly the final climax, the "switcheroo" ending, where Summer and Iris are tested for the depth of their pathology and impulsive loyalties.
The novel is a bit like Lucy Clarke's yachting thriller The Blue, though Carlyle displays none of Clarke's accomplished prose style. After the suspense of the events on the Bathsheba and whether Summer is in fact "dead" or not, the rest of the novel takes place back in Australia in a clever but jarring coup de grace. We watch helplessly as Iris tries to get her comeuppance as the mirror image of Summer in a plot twist, where, surprisingly, Ben arrives to save the day (or does he?).