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Posts Tagged ‘sisters’

THE DARKEST SECRET by Alex Marwood: Book Review

It’s 2004, and three-year-old Coco Jackson is missing.  Her family, including her identical twin sister Ruby, their parents Claire and Sean, two older half-sisters, three other couples, and several children are spending the weekend at the Jackson holiday home in Bournemouth, England, to celebrate Sean’s fiftieth birthday.

Before the weekend is over, Coco’s older step-siblings leave the party and return to their mother’s home; Claire drives back to London after discovering her husband in flagrante delicto with another woman; alcohol and drugs are used and abused in abundance; Coco is gone; and the lives of everyone present are changed irreparably.

The people at this party are wealthy, educated, and not very nice.  Sean Jackson is a handsome, successful, and charismatic businessman who is extremely self-involved and uncaring in his dealings with family and friends.  Claire, who was his mistress before she became his second wife, has come to realize that the charm with which he overwhelmed her before they were married is simply a cover for his narcissistic personality and his persistent womanizing; perhaps as a form of revenge, she shows no interest in maintaining any sort of positive relationship with her step-daughters.

The three other couples attending Sean’s fiftieth are similarly unpleasant.  Linda is the woman with whom Sean is having an affair, and her partner James is a Dr. Feelgood with a supply of prescription and non-prescription drugs for every occasion.  Charles is a rising Tory politician on the far right of his party; his wife Imogen has no other interest in life but furthering his career.  Maria and her husband Robert are a very successful couple, she the head of a public relations firm, he a lawyer, who seem on the surface to be the most likeable people in the group, but appearances can be deceiving.  And Robert’s fifteen-year-old daughter Simone, the child of his first marriage, is desperately trying to attract the wandering eye of the event’s host.

The Darkest Secret tells the story that starts at the beginning of this infamous weekend and continues to the present.  We first learn of Coco’s disappearance from witness statements at the beginning of the novel, and then we learn, bringing the story up to the present, that Sean has died.  Even though Milly, his younger daughter from his first marriage, hasn’t seen her father in years, her mother asks her to identify the body; she doesn’t feel able to and Sean’s third wife can’t because she’s home with their young daughter.

Alex Marwood’s novel will keep you in suspense throughout.  The tight group of adults has a lot of secrets to keep.  They’ve been successful at it for fifteen years, but now those secrets are in danger of being revealed.  And the people involved can’t let that happen.

You can read more about Alex Marwood at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


THE DAMAGE DONE by Hilary Davidson: Book Review

Imagine you’re in Spain, writing a travel book about Barcelona that is a follow-up to your guide on Madrid.  You get a phone call from the New York Police Department saying that your sister has been found dead in your apartment and that you need to come home to identify her body.

Claudia has always been in trouble, has been a drug addict for years, so although it’s sad that she’s died so young it’s not really surprising.  The surprise comes when the detective brings you to the city morgue and you look at the body and say, “That woman isn’t my sister….I’ve never seen her before in my life.”

That’s how The Damage Done opens. The older sister, Lily Moore, has always been the responsible one, the one who took charge after their father’s sudden death one Christmas, their mother’s descent into alcoholism and her suicide one New Year’s Eve.  But now Lily is bewildered, and things are spiraling out of control all around her.

Her former fiancee, wealthy hotel magnate Martin Sklar, still hasn’t given up pursuing her and is putting pressure on her to return to New York permanently and marry him.  Her sister’s neighbor, Sarah Lyons, is taking an extraordinary interest in Claudia’s disappearance.  The two detectives assigned to the case aren’t sure it’s not simply an accidental death, but they can’t explain why the woman found in the apartment introduced herself to the superintendent, who knew Claudia, as Claudia’s cousin, and to Sarah Lyons, who didn’t know Claudia, as Claudia Moore herself.

Lily tries to follow the trail that her sister left behind. It takes her to the apartment of her sister’s friend, a Pakistani man named Tariq, whom Lily has always suspected was involved in Claudia’s drug use; while she’s there, Tariq’s girlfriend attacks her.  Then Martin tells Lily that Claudia had been in touch with him, asking him for money for another attempt at rehab, but when he agreed and told her to pick up his check, she never showed.  And then there’s the mysterious woman from Hong Kong who spoke to the police about Claudia but now seems to have disappeared.

Hilary Davidson has created a very believable heroine in Lily Moore. At the beginning of the novel she appears to be the opposite of her sister, a very successful, put-together professional woman who has endured a life that would have destroyed someone weaker, as it appeared to have done to her sister.  But the more one reads, the more Lily’s own demons come out.

She’s still dealing with the deaths of her parents–her beloved father, who perhaps wasn’t quite as wonderful as she remembers; her emotionally disturbed mother, who used to lock Lily and Claudia in a closet for hours to protect them from some imagined harm; her off-again, on-again feelings for her former fiancee, whose business practices she abhors but whose touch still arouses her.

The supporting characters are well-drawn too–Jesse, a gay photographer, Lily’s best friend; the two police detectives; Tariq, a very successful businessman who travels with bodyguards; the ex-fiancee Martin; and Martin’s son Ridley, a sullen teenager with emotional problems that his father will not see.  This is a debut worthy of the three awards for which it has been nominated.

You can read more about Hilary Davidson at her web site.