Every summer, Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker decamp to Salcombe: a small, exclusive enclave of Fire Island where there’s no shortage of gossip amongst its seasonal residents. From infidelity to backstabbing, Salcombe has seen its fair share of scandal. But no amount of impropriety could prepare the town for what would happen when a dead body is discovered, face down, by the boardwalk.
Such begins Bad Summer People, the debut novel from BDG’s Chief Content Officer, Emma Rosenblum. Growing up, Rosenblum spent her summers in Saltaire, Fire Island: the idyllic, seaside town that went on to inspire Bad Summer People’s fictional Salcombe. And while Rosenblum deftly drops readers into this moneyed milieu, she ratchets up the drama to a satirical degree. Employing dark comedy to explore how this potential murder unravels relationships, long-held dynamics, and Salcombe at large.
But above all else, this is the story of what’s lurking under the surface in a picture-perfect place where everyone seems to be hiding something. Bad Summer People is out on May 23, 2023 and is available for pre-order now. You can read the book’s first pages below, exclusively on Bustle.
Danny Leavitt, a gangly eight-year-old with a severe peanut allergy, was the one who discovered the body. It was early, maybe 7:30am, and he’d been riding his black Schwinn bike around town to search for snails after the big storm they’d had the night before. The boardwalks were wet and slippery and covered with leaves and small branches, blown off by the strong winds. It hadn’t been a tropical storm, but it’d been close — an intense microburst that had hit the island unexpectedly, sending deck furniture flying and doing some light damage to several roofs around the village. Danny’s house, which was right on the beach, was fine, the power intact, but his mom yelled after him to be careful as he left, warning of potential downed wires.
He’d ridden for about ten minutes, going from the ocean down to the bay on the walk that he lived on, Surf. Then he decided to ride over to Neptune Walk, where the playground was, to see what shape it was in. He turned on Harbor from Surf, passed Atlantic, Marine, and Broadway, and then turned left on Neptune. Something shiny caught his eye in front of the Cahull’s, a friendly couple with one little kid, Archie. He stopped and got off his Schwinn to see a bike, nearly hidden in the woody, shrub-y area that lined the boardwalks, about a three-foot-drop down. The town had lifted all the walks after flooding from Hurricane Sandy, and Danny’s dad, along with many other people in Salcombe, thought they’d gone overboard. “Someone could break their neck,” he remembered his dad muttering.
Danny figured the bike had been blown away by the wind, so he grabbed its wheel and dragged it up onto the boardwalk, no easy feat—it was a grown-up’s bike, and Danny was small for his age. It was then he saw that the bike had been covering something else: a person, face down in the reeds. The body was angled strangely and not moving at all. Danny felt his throat close, almost as if he’d eaten a peanut. He hadn’t, had he? He ran to the Cahull’s house and banged on the door loudly, shivering and scared. Marina came quickly in her pajamas and glasses, holding Archie, a concerned look on her face. Marina was very pregnant.
“Danny Leavitt? Are you okay?”
Danny could barely get the words out.
“There’s someone out there on the ground, I think they fell off the boardwalk on their bike. They’re not moving.”
Marina put her son down and called for her husband, Mike.
“Come inside now. Mike and I will handle it. You just stay here.”
Mike, in sweatpants and a sleep-rumpled T-shirt, passed them by and went out to look at the find. Marina smiled at Danny. They were silent for a minute. Mike came back into the house. He seemed tense, like when Danny’s dad had a bad day at work.
“Take Danny back to his house, and take Archie with you. Don’t look at the body. I’m going to call the police. Or whoever it is out here that they call police.”
The body? Danny had only heard that phrase in TV shows his parents watched. Marina grabbed her son, who was fussing, and led Danny down the walkway toward his bike, redirecting him away from the body, as Danny now thought of it. She told Danny to ride home and then put her son in the baby-seat of her bike and took off after him.
Danny wasn’t part of the excitement after that, but he did get to speak to two police officers that day (they were real police officers, weren’t they?) and tell them what he’d found and how he’d found it. His parents seemed upset; he’d overheard them speaking in a loud whisper in their bedroom after the cops had left.
“Great, now he’s going to be the ‘dead body’ kid — this is going to be the talk of Dalton,” said his mom, Jessica.
“I wonder if there’s a way we can sue the town,” said his dad, Max. “I’m not paying two million dollars for my beach house, plus fifty thousand in property taxes, for my son to find a corpse. Someone needs to pay for this.”
But overall, Danny felt pretty good about discovering the first murder victim in Salcombe, like, ever. He was looking forward to telling all his friends at camp about it. How cool was that?
EXCERPTED FROM BAD SUMMER PEOPLE. COPYRIGHT © 2023 BY EMMA ROSENBLUM. EXCERPTED BY PERMISSION OF FLATIRON BOOKS, A DIVISION OF MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS. NO PART OF THIS EXCERPT MAY BE REPRODUCED OR REPRINTED WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER.