2016 Reviews · contemporary fiction · thriller

Book review: The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

darkest secretBook blurb:

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco?

Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed…

3.5 stars

Three year old Coco Jackson disappears without a trace in August 2004, during a family celebration at their holiday home near Bournemouth. The case attracts much media attention due to Coco’s affluent background but over a decade later, there are still no answers to Coco’s whereabouts. Fifteen years after his daughter’s disappearance, Sean Jackson is found dead, his funeral marks the start of a revelation of dark secrets surrounding the day Coco vanished.

With a gripping premise and a murky cover to match, I had a feeling this was going to be a strong psychological thriller from new- to- me author, Alex Marwood. The Darkest Secret did have me hooked from the very beginning. The interesting layout of introducing the reader to the events of the story via email and police reports for the first fifteen pages was a clever decision. Immediately I felt involved in little Coco’s welfare, this structure also served to raise my suspicions as to who may be connected to Coco’s disappearance. There are two main time frames linked to this novel , which focus on the events leading up to Coco going missing in 2004, through to some 15 years later, when Coco’s twin sister Ruby and half older sister Milly prepare to attend their estranged Father’s funeral. Ruby and her older sister Milly play a large part in the present day storyline of the novel, narrating much of the events. The shifting time periods serve as a good plot device to reel the reader further into the depths of the story. There are a large collection of characters in this story, all playing a part in Marwood’s intricate web of dark secrets. Despite Milly and Ruby, most behave pretty appallingly. However, what I did feel the novel succeeds in is the exploration of a myriad of issues concerning family dynamics, from love, loss, infidelity, trust and to parental responsibility and family loyalty. Marwood wraps the novel up nicely for the reader, while also offering plenty of twists and red herrings. I did find my suspicions were confirmed relating to a particular character’s involvement in and the circumstances surrounding Coco’s disappearance. At the close of the novel I felt an overwhelming sense of frustration that justice was not truly served for poor Coco.

The Darkest Secret is a dark and twisted tale which is littered with downright loathsome characters, who engage in some pretty horrific decision making. Whilst it is clear that I didn’t care much for characters in the book or their behaviour, this is a very good psychological thriller, which I would happily recommend to fans of this genre.

The Darkest Secret was published by Hachette Australia in 2016





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