NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "Some truths will shatter worlds. Some secrets are best kept, though the keeping can eat you up."

In this psychological thriller, the first book I've read by Alex Marwood, the characters are easy to loathe and the alternating points of view with multiple narrators and the back and forth from present day to the weekend in 2004, make it a bit hard to get into at first. But stick with it -- what a great hodgepodge of immorality and dysfunction!

The novel starts with a press release -- a three year old girl, Coco Jackson, daughter of the super wealthy Sean Jackson and his current second wife Claire, also a twin to Ruby, is missing from the family's vacation home in Bournemouth while on a holiday weekend in August, 2004. No trace of Coco is ever found.

Fast-forward to present day and the death of Sean Jackson (in a hotel with poppers and handcuffed to the bed though on his 4th wife) and preparation for the funeral and a reunion of sorts with the Jackson Associates -- a group of friends who were there on the holiday in 2004. One of Sean's daughters, Mila, is entreated to take Ruby along with her to the funeral. The revelations are dangled bit by bit as the truth about that fateful weekend comes via the various narrators and climaxes on the very last pages of the novel in a gripping conclusion that, though somewhat predictable, is very satisfying.

The Jackson family tree consists of 5 daughters -- 2 with his first wife, twins with the second, and a 5th with his last and 4th wife. The Jackson Associates include friends from Sean's university days and their spouses. Keeping everyone straight is a bit hard at first, but the well written novel allows for great characterization that is quite a study in personality disorders and relationships. The reader comes to know some of them better than others and the narrative reminds us that perception becomes truth -- we cannot know that which is kept from us and our feelings and actions rely on what we believe.

I enjoyed reading this and will definitely be looking for the other two books published by this author. It definitely would make a great book club read and ranks up there with many other recent, popular psychological thrillers. I'm sure there will be the inevitable comparisons, but this work stands on its own as a cautionary tale. And yes, there is definitely evil in the world, and there will always be those who justify their actions to preserve ego and to get what is wanted. 

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