“Summertime Guests” is Wendy Francis’s fifth novel, but even though Francis has lived in the Boston area for years, it’s the first book she’s set in Boston. The idea behind it came as she was on a family walk through the Seaport district. “I couldn’t believe the transformation that had happened,” Francis said.
And she started to imagine if the neighborhood had a slightly different history, complete with resort hotels. “Wouldn’t it be something if we had had one of those grand old hotels? How cool would it be?” Soon, Francis was at work on a novel centered on the fictional Seafarer, a legendary Boston hotel that for decades served the famous and fabulous. “Summertime Guests” takes place over a few days at the hotel, focusing on four couples and one tragic event — a woman has fallen to her death from a hotel balcony, but the victim’s identity isn’t revealed till the book’s end.
It is, Francis admits, a bit of a departure from her usual style. “All of my books are summertime escapes,” she said. “This is my first mystery, if you can call it that. I guess there are always some kind of secrets being revealed in my books but this was much more involved.”
Perhaps even more than the question mark at its center, Francis added, the book was propelled by her own desires during quarantine. “All I could think about was how I can’t wait to go on vacation, I can’t wait to go to some tony hotel by the sea, and to be able to stroll through museums again, and go to the North End on a whim,” she said. “Missing all that was another impetus behind it: imagining myself out of the four walls of the house with my family. No offense to my family! But it gets old after a while.”
Francis will read at 8 p.m. Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by An Unlikely Story.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at email@example.com.