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Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old. When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents ar Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old. 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... Taut, emotive and utterly compelling, an unputdownable 'ripped from the headlines' novel that you will want to talk about with everyone you know.


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Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old. When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents ar Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old. 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... Taut, emotive and utterly compelling, an unputdownable 'ripped from the headlines' novel that you will want to talk about with everyone you know.

30 review for The Darkest Secret

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    It's hard to imagine a more narcissistic group of characters than the ones in 'The Darkest Secret'. Selfish and arrogant, they're creatures of excess in the worst possible way. You won't like them, but they DO make for a compelling read. Central to the story is a missing child - 3 year old Coco, who goes missing on the weekend of her father Sean's 50th birthday party. The events take place over two weekends twelve years apart. The second weekend being Sean's funeral. The author slowly reveals th It's hard to imagine a more narcissistic group of characters than the ones in 'The Darkest Secret'. Selfish and arrogant, they're creatures of excess in the worst possible way. You won't like them, but they DO make for a compelling read. Central to the story is a missing child - 3 year old Coco, who goes missing on the weekend of her father Sean's 50th birthday party. The events take place over two weekends twelve years apart. The second weekend being Sean's funeral. The author slowly reveals the facts and details surrounding Coco's disappearance, facts that have the power to shock and sadden. Just when I thought that everything had been revealed and all the loose ends tied up, there was a nice little twist at the end. Shocking, powerful, compelling. * Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    This is the first book by Alex Marwood that I have read. After reading the book blurb I thought it would be one I would really enjoy. ***Possibly some minor spoilers*** The book starts off with an email regarding three year old Coco's disappearance. Her godmother sent it out to spread the word about missing little Coco. After that there are witness accounts about Coco and and what different people saw that weekend. Coco disappeared during her father's 50th Birthday celebration weekend. It was pres This is the first book by Alex Marwood that I have read. After reading the book blurb I thought it would be one I would really enjoy. ***Possibly some minor spoilers*** The book starts off with an email regarding three year old Coco's disappearance. Her godmother sent it out to spread the word about missing little Coco. After that there are witness accounts about Coco and and what different people saw that weekend. Coco disappeared during her father's 50th Birthday celebration weekend. It was presumed that she was likely taken from a room where other children including her twin sister, Ruby were sleeping. The timeline goes back and forth from the weekend Coco went missing to 12 years later after her father, Sean Jackson is found dead in a hotel. I have to admit at first I was so confused as to what was happening. I often had to go back and re-read some parts. It didn't feel like the timeline flowed very well. I wasn't always aware which weekend I was reading about. The weekend in which Coco went missing or the weekend 12 years later during the time around her father, Sean Jackson's death and funeral. I am glad that I didn't give up because it seemed to become a lot easier to follow and I became more interested in what was happening. And of course I wanted to know... What happened to Coco all those years ago? Wow! Many of these characters were truly detestable. The author described these deplorable characters very well. I can't imagine having these people as friends never-mind having them around my children at all. I did like a few of the characters though. Teenage Ruby was original and lovable. Millie and Ellie, Sean's daughters from his first marriage were quite entertaining. They had me laughing out loud a couple of times especially during their interactions with their father. I had a hard time feeling any pity for daddy dearest. Always trading in wives, he was definitely a narcissistic of the highest degree! Primarily concerned with money and his selfish urges he barely considered his wives or children. Which I guess was why he surrounded himself with like-minded people. The details and the facts surrounding Coco's disappearance are slowly revealed throughout the book. I did guess some of what happened but was still pretty interested in seeing it all play out and there was a twist at the end that I didn't quite see coming. At times the book seemed really long. It is 400 pages but at time it really felt much longer. Also because it did take quite a while for the story to get going this may cause some readers to give up. However, in the end it was a decent read. This book seems to be getting quite a variety of ratings. I fall somewhere in the middle.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Blimey talk about a book that rips your heart out then stomps all over it, The Darkest Secret is an intense and engaging character drama focusing on a, to be honest, quite horrible set of people – a fractured family and their fractured friends, a more selfish and self absorbed bunch you’d be hard pressed to find, they are intricately fascinating from the offset. It’s hard to look away, like watching a car crash, as you turn the pages waiting waiting to find out the truth behind the disappearance Blimey talk about a book that rips your heart out then stomps all over it, The Darkest Secret is an intense and engaging character drama focusing on a, to be honest, quite horrible set of people – a fractured family and their fractured friends, a more selfish and self absorbed bunch you’d be hard pressed to find, they are intricately fascinating from the offset. It’s hard to look away, like watching a car crash, as you turn the pages waiting waiting to find out the truth behind the disappearance of identical twin Coco. Incredibly dynamic, incredibly moving and at times incredibly frustrating The Darkest Secret will take you on a dark journey indeed – Alex Marwood has written a powerhouse of a novel, unrelenting in its demands on your emotions and creating a truly unforgettable bunch of characters, all individually drawn with complexity of ego, insightful prose that gives you a true sense of who they are. Throughout the narrative there is a pervading sense of complete horror. But also I was enthralled. Completely and utterly.. Sophisticated plotting done in the simplest of ways – two weekends, years apart, tell the tale of our bunch of misreants and creates a totally addictive and involving read as you see what went before and the ever outward rippling affect this has on the people they have become today. The tangled web of a family divided and constantly reborn, bang at the heart of it Ms Marwood puts the ones who have no choice in any of it – the children. Through Mila and Ruby, the author shows us just what damage can be done with often the simplest of dismissals or declarations then takes it several steps further by adding a truly terrible event – one that throws their life into disarray, a life lived in the spotlight of public and press recognition and speculation. One of the best things about The Darkest Day for me was watching these two come together after years of being apart, their developing relationship and spark of understanding, in a lot of ways I wish I could go further down that path with them. I really don’t want to say anymore – with a novel that is as definitely authentic and character driven as this one, it is perhaps better that you come to each strand of the story in your own way, meeting each personality on their own terms and drawing your own conclusions and taking from it your own perspectives. This is not a book that tries to be smugly clever, to deliver the unexpected twist, to fool you into thinking in a particular way. It is surprising in its own way, beautifully written, deliciously readable, with an ending that just…well it just. Highly Recommended. With bells on. And some fireworks going off in the background.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Nelson

    The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood starts off with witness statements about a young girl missing, presumed kidnapped. We then go to the events surrounding the girl’s disappearance and the Fathers 50th birthday weekend celebration. The past timeline is interspersed with the present where the Father of the missing girl dies in mysterious circumstances handcuffed to a hotel bed and the majority of the cast prepares for the funeral. The death is not expanded on and he turns out to be a soulless man The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood starts off with witness statements about a young girl missing, presumed kidnapped. We then go to the events surrounding the girl’s disappearance and the Fathers 50th birthday weekend celebration. The past timeline is interspersed with the present where the Father of the missing girl dies in mysterious circumstances handcuffed to a hotel bed and the majority of the cast prepares for the funeral. The death is not expanded on and he turns out to be a soulless man who deserved much worse than the cards he was dealt in life.   What really happened on the weekend of the disappearance is divulged as a finale and there's a bit of a twist that I saw coming from seventy two and a half miles away, or pretty much the beginning. The character development holds the story together by something like the last strand that's just about to break but to be honest the story bored the pants off me for the first two thirds and was altogether far too predictable with no real shocks or anything that gripped me. Also posted at http://paulnelson.booklikes.com/post/...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    I found the plot intriguing, but didn’t really manage to get into this story. I loved the very beginning with the witness statements, but then I felt the story got a little confusing, taking more concentration than normal to keep track of the characters and what was going on. There are a number of characters for readers to enjoy disliking. If you like books full of unpleasant characters, then this may be the book for you. The second half of the book held my interest much more, as certain aspects o I found the plot intriguing, but didn’t really manage to get into this story. I loved the very beginning with the witness statements, but then I felt the story got a little confusing, taking more concentration than normal to keep track of the characters and what was going on. There are a number of characters for readers to enjoy disliking. If you like books full of unpleasant characters, then this may be the book for you. The second half of the book held my interest much more, as certain aspects of the story were revealed, but I wasn’t blown away by it, more just left with an uncomfortable feeling about things. I’m a hard one to please when it comes to crime novels, and I see that quite a few of my bookworm friends loved this book, so I think it was just a case of this one wasn’t for me. I have a couple of other books on my to be read list by this author, and I’m looking forward to reading them at some point in the future. I would like to thank the publisher, Sphere for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    3.5 stars If you love the way psychological crime novels are filled to the brim with awful people these days, this book is most definitely for you. The characters in The Darkest Secret make Nick and Amy (Gone Girl) look well-adjusted. This is the one things Marwood does exceedingly well, the people seeth with selfishness, bitterness, deceit, and immorality. You loathe them right from the beginning, and boy are you justified. The story itself is good enough, it seemed to me to be more of a foil for 3.5 stars If you love the way psychological crime novels are filled to the brim with awful people these days, this book is most definitely for you. The characters in The Darkest Secret make Nick and Amy (Gone Girl) look well-adjusted. This is the one things Marwood does exceedingly well, the people seeth with selfishness, bitterness, deceit, and immorality. You loathe them right from the beginning, and boy are you justified. The story itself is good enough, it seemed to me to be more of a foil for the characters than anything else. The plot/twist/revelations are signposted by the author in bright, flashing neon-i'm pretty sure nobody is going to be surprised. But i'm not sure that's the point- the 'what happened' is not as important as the 'how will people behave to get themselves out of trouble'. ***SPOILERS BELOW*** I liked that the author had the guts to stay 'dark' all the way through. Don't look for any last minute guilt or 'justice' here. Just terrible people getting on with their lives like nothing happened. This point alone makes me want to look at the other books by the author. Not every story has a happy ending. Many thanks to Alex Marwood, Little, Brown Book Group UK, and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    The Darkest Secret. Yep, and there are loads of dark secrets in between these pages for sure. Book 3 in the series but can be read as a stand alone I feel personally. A child that has gone missing. But it’s not straight forward. I’m not sure I liked or connected with any characters in this. They were evil. But boy oh boy, it made me turn pages so fast my eyeballs couldn’t keep up! So, at the beginning I struggled. I had to keep going back over some of what I’d just read. First I thought it was me, get The Darkest Secret. Yep, and there are loads of dark secrets in between these pages for sure. Book 3 in the series but can be read as a stand alone I feel personally. A child that has gone missing. But it’s not straight forward. I’m not sure I liked or connected with any characters in this. They were evil. But boy oh boy, it made me turn pages so fast my eyeballs couldn’t keep up! So, at the beginning I struggled. I had to keep going back over some of what I’d just read. First I thought it was me, getting older or I’m dumb. But I see some other reviews have mentioned that, so phew, I’m not for putting in a home quite yet! Relief. I was at 2.75 stars then. But that twist... Oh blimey that twist..... Bumped to a 3.75 and rounded up to a 4

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Having really enjoyed this authors previous books, I was very excited about reading their latest offering and it really lived up to my expectations. “The Darkest Secret” is based around the events of a tragic weekend in 2004 and the aftermath, twelve years afterwards. Sean Jackson is a man who likes success, beautiful women and getting his own way. On a Bank Holiday weekend in 2004, he is intending to celebrate his fiftieth birthday with his closest friends and family. Accompanying him to the hol Having really enjoyed this authors previous books, I was very excited about reading their latest offering and it really lived up to my expectations. “The Darkest Secret” is based around the events of a tragic weekend in 2004 and the aftermath, twelve years afterwards. Sean Jackson is a man who likes success, beautiful women and getting his own way. On a Bank Holiday weekend in 2004, he is intending to celebrate his fiftieth birthday with his closest friends and family. Accompanying him to the holiday home in Bournemouth, that he intends to sell after their visit. are second wife Claire, the new couple’s three year old twin daughters, Coco and Ruby, Sean’s daughters by his first wife – India and Camilla, his mistress, interior designer Linda and her husband, Harley Street doctor and dispenser of a good time from his medicine bag, Dr James Orizio, Sean’s old friend, politician Charles Clutterbuck and his wife, Imogen, Maria and Robert Gavila, Robert’s daughter, Simone, plus Linda and Maria’s younger children. It is fair to say that these are not likeable characters. These are power obsessed alpha males, whose wives are just there to be decorative – and replaced hastily when they lose their bloom – and for whom children are just an inconvenience. Sean Jackson is determined to have a good time and is not even aware that his daughters, India and Camilla, will be visiting him that weekend; while Claire is realising that she is being replaced and that Sean’s friends are no longer willing to even friendship with her. During this weekend, three year old Coco disappears, causing a media frenzy around these successful, wealthy group of people and for fingers of blame to be pointed at them, as the mystery remains unsolved. Twelve years later, Sean Jackson dies and Camilla (now known as ‘Mila’) has to confront both her past and the various step mothers and step sisters she has lost contact with. Charged with taking the now teenage Ruby to her father’s funeral, she both questions her relationship with his father – and the disasters his many marriages left in his wake – and what really happened on that weekend when Coco vanished. We learn of that weekend in flashbacks, along with the characters meeting up again for Sean’s funeral. Cleverly, although so many of the main characters are unsympathetic, you do feel compassion for Mila and Ruby, so can become involved in the book. This is an excellent thriller. It has a great plot, a few really clever twists and believable characters. Jealousy, intrigue, selfishness and vanity combine to make a lethal combination. Reading this will get your New Year’s crime reading down to a great start. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Li'l Owl

    Wow! Fantastic! Exceptional! Terrific!.. I could go on and on! One of THE BEST audio books I've ever heard! I loved Alex Marwood's audio edition of The Killer Next Door narrated by Imogen Church . Well, she has done it again! This time, her creative, wonderfully twisted plot is combined with the incredibly talented storytelling of narrator Beverley A Crick. The result is a terrific, one of a kind listening experience that's not to be missed. Need a distraction? This should do it! It's Wow! Fantastic! Exceptional! Terrific!.. I could go on and on! One of THE BEST audio books I've ever heard! I loved Alex Marwood's audio edition of The Killer Next Door narrated by Imogen Church . Well, she has done it again! This time, her creative, wonderfully twisted plot is combined with the incredibly talented storytelling of narrator Beverley A Crick. The result is a terrific, one of a kind listening experience that's not to be missed. Need a distraction? This should do it! It's Sooo realistic! I could feel the babies breath on my neck. See the expressions on characters faces. Touch the falling tears. And laugh out loud at the eccentric personalities. I was completely absorbed! I couldn't wait to find out what really happened to baby Coco? And where is she now? More to the point, who is to blame? The audio edition of The Darkest Secret was absolutely splendid! Just splendid! Need I say more? I do want to say that while both books are fantastic and favorites of mine, the contents and plots are very different from one another. This book, The Darkest Secret is far more tame in the gore department. While I won't go as far as saying that it's a cozy mystery because it's definitely not, but, in contrast, The Killer Next Door is far more graphic. It's more toward the horror end of the spectrum, but not that far, in the aspect of horrific graphic content. My recommendation is that you read my review and description of both and decide for yourself.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angela Marsons

    So, I was lucky enough to get an early copy of The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood and I devoured every single page. I was only going to take a peek and then get some work done. Well, the work never got done. It is a taut story with expertly drawn characters that you get to know very quickly. The pace carries you along at speed until you are left gasping for breath at the end. And I mean THE VERY END. Do not miss the last few pages. I highly recommend this book (which I had on pre-order anyway) a So, I was lucky enough to get an early copy of The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood and I devoured every single page. I was only going to take a peek and then get some work done. Well, the work never got done. It is a taut story with expertly drawn characters that you get to know very quickly. The pace carries you along at speed until you are left gasping for breath at the end. And I mean THE VERY END. Do not miss the last few pages. I highly recommend this book (which I had on pre-order anyway) and suspect it is going to be a runaway hit of next year.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Firstly I have to say that this story starts off rather slowly, but picks up half way through. The book revolves around two weekends, 12 years apart. As a thee year old Coco , one of a set of twins goes missing from her families holiday home. The characters in this story are truly awful, self indulgent, ego driven, narcissistic , materialistic and delusional. This was quite hard to read at times as you start to see what lengths people will go to to satisfy their own enjoyment and entertainment w Firstly I have to say that this story starts off rather slowly, but picks up half way through. The book revolves around two weekends, 12 years apart. As a thee year old Coco , one of a set of twins goes missing from her families holiday home. The characters in this story are truly awful, self indulgent, ego driven, narcissistic , materialistic and delusional. This was quite hard to read at times as you start to see what lengths people will go to to satisfy their own enjoyment and entertainment while not caing less about others, family or not. The most vulnerable are unfortunately on their own. How utterly sad.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph - Relax And Read Reviews

    Reading the blurb of this book, I was immediately intrigued, and not having read any of the author's other books, I decided to give it a go. I liked the unusual way in which the author has laid out the initial part of the book. We start off with an email written by Maria appealing for help in finding Coco, a little girl that has gone missing from a holiday home in Bournemouth. We also have some witness statements taken by the police during the ensuing investigation. This part sucks the reader str Reading the blurb of this book, I was immediately intrigued, and not having read any of the author's other books, I decided to give it a go. I liked the unusual way in which the author has laid out the initial part of the book. We start off with an email written by Maria appealing for help in finding Coco, a little girl that has gone missing from a holiday home in Bournemouth. We also have some witness statements taken by the police during the ensuing investigation. This part sucks the reader straight into the drama. Following this part, chapters alternate between two weekends, twelve years apart - the holiday weekend when tragedy struck and the present when Milly is preparing to attend to her father's funeral. Surprisingly and I don't know if this is due to the author's writing style or the way the plot is laid out, I found myself struggling really hard to go through this book - especially through the first half. I found it difficult to be drawn into the story or to relate with any of the characters. We have many characters - almost all unpleasant, arrogant and hateful - interacting all at once and it took me quite some time to figure out who's who, who's married to whom and who's the son or daughter of whom. I ended up skimming through entire chunks of boring copy that didn't add anything to the story and was tempted to put the book down numerous times. However I persevered hoping the story would get a bit more interesting and in fact found the last quarter of the book more intriguing, even though I had guessed the perpetrator's identity early on. Unfortunately with its attractive cover and appealing blurb this book fell short of my expectations, but as with all my other reviews, this is just my opinion - Sorry! With thanks to Little Brown Book and NetGalley for approving my request to read this book in exchange of an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    Slow, suspenseful and disturbing, albeit predictable. Just shy of 4 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leslie D.

    *4.25 stars* While I cannot in good conscience reveal the secrets within this novel (no spoilers!), I will shed some more light on this book when I have the time! ;) Narration Notation: The audiobook version I listened to via Audible was narrated by Beverley A. Crick, & she did a smashing job! I just saw in the info above my review states that Imogen Church was the narrator (whom I do adore!), but I triple checked & my AB still says "Narrated by Beverley A. Crick" every time...my audiobook cover al *4.25 stars* While I cannot in good conscience reveal the secrets within this novel (no spoilers!), I will shed some more light on this book when I have the time! ;) Narration Notation: The audiobook version I listened to via Audible was narrated by Beverley A. Crick, & she did a smashing job! I just saw in the info above my review states that Imogen Church was the narrator (whom I do adore!), but I triple checked & my AB still says "Narrated by Beverley A. Crick" every time...my audiobook cover also looks different (Blue background of water with a tan/brown teddy bear sinking in it) instead...may finally be time for me to pony up & join the GR 'Librarians' group, haha! -Full review to follow-

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Robertson

    As soon as I heard Alex Marwood had a new book out I pre-ordered it from Amazon. Having a chance to read it early with a review copy was a fantastic opportunity for me as I am an incredibly impatient reader when it comes to books by my favourite authors. In fact, I normally read my books in order of publication (it does border on ocd to be fair!) but I made a huge exception for The Darkest Secret as I physically couldn't wait! I don't want to go into the plot of this book too much as I think peop As soon as I heard Alex Marwood had a new book out I pre-ordered it from Amazon. Having a chance to read it early with a review copy was a fantastic opportunity for me as I am an incredibly impatient reader when it comes to books by my favourite authors. In fact, I normally read my books in order of publication (it does border on ocd to be fair!) but I made a huge exception for The Darkest Secret as I physically couldn't wait! I don't want to go into the plot of this book too much as I think people should read it with no preconceptions. Sean Jackson is holding his 50th birthday party over a Bank Holiday weekend in August attended by various friends and family. Over the course of the weekend, one of his twin daughters, Coco aged 3, goes missing. Ten years later Mila, Coco's half sister, and Ruby, Coco's twin, come together to attend his funeral. The story unfolds in 2004 and is told from the viewpoints of various party guests and then alternating with Mila in 2014, who is trying to make sense of her relationship with her deceased father and her half sister Ruby but may also be about to uncover the truth about Coco. It's amazing that an author can take a bunch of unlikable and immoral characters and make you want to keep reading about them! You are watching what is happening with a hand over your eyes, dreading what you will find out about these dreadful, narcissistic "friends". It shows how the actions of adults can ripple down the years to affect children, even when they are adults. It's very true to life unfortunately. I loved this book. The apprehension as you read, to find out what has happened to Coco, builds up gradually until you don't want to read further as the truth is revealed but you just have to know! I adored the relationship between Mila and Ruby and the way it developed over just a few days. And I started off hating another character but as the story unfolded further my opinion turned on its head as it also did with other characters but in reverse! A superb read from Alex Marwood and will certainly be one of the big reads for the start of 2016. Her best so far I think and as a huge fan of The Wicked Girls that is saying something! I received a copy of the book via netgalley in return for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    3.5 stars out of 5 for this story which is set over two weekends set 12 years apart. In 2004 three year old Coco Jackson went missing during a long weekend get together with family and friends to celebrate her father Sean’s 50th birthday and has never been found. Nobody knows what happened to her. Twelve years later Sean is dead and the same group of people are gathering for his funeral. This is a book with characters so unlikeable they make those in Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train seem posit 3.5 stars out of 5 for this story which is set over two weekends set 12 years apart. In 2004 three year old Coco Jackson went missing during a long weekend get together with family and friends to celebrate her father Sean’s 50th birthday and has never been found. Nobody knows what happened to her. Twelve years later Sean is dead and the same group of people are gathering for his funeral. This is a book with characters so unlikeable they make those in Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train seem positively adorable. I know there are people who couldn’t get on with those two books (and others like them) because of the characters and I suspect that those people might feel the same about this one. With just a couple of exceptions, the characters here are vain, self absorbed, bitchy – to be honest there are not enough negative adjectives to describe them, they are just plain horrible. The plot itself is a cleverly constructed story which slowly releases clues as to what happened to Coco all those years ago. By the time everything is out in the open you will have put some, but not all of the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle together yourself and have a pretty good idea of what happened. The story moves slowly, especially the part of it set in 2004 and there were times when I had to put the book down and go and do something else for a while just to get away from the characters. I was beginning to find them physically draining and am just thankful that I only spent a literary weekend with them and not a real one. It all moves towards an ending that is both satisfying and frustrating at the same time, one which doesn’t wrap up everything in a tidy bow but still leaves some things unanswered. There were times I found it tense and gripping but equally there were times I felt I had to get away from the characters. I have reworded this paragraph three times now because I just seemed to be coming over so negative and I don’t want to sound negative as it is not a bad read at all, just one that left me feeling as if I had been through the wringer! Thanks to the publishers via Netgalley for the review copy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    One of the very best ways to exit this mortal coil is by way of a traditional Church of England funeral with all the right hymns, such as ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’ & ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’. I teared up for Simon’s funeral in Penny Vincenzi’s An Absolute Scandal & Fiona’s in Susan Hill’s The Various Haunts of Men. But what’s a good pick for a ritual marking the departure of a total sleaze with most of the mourners weeping enough crocodile tears to flood the banks of the Nile? (At least the dec One of the very best ways to exit this mortal coil is by way of a traditional Church of England funeral with all the right hymns, such as ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’ & ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’. I teared up for Simon’s funeral in Penny Vincenzi’s An Absolute Scandal & Fiona’s in Susan Hill’s The Various Haunts of Men. But what’s a good pick for a ritual marking the departure of a total sleaze with most of the mourners weeping enough crocodile tears to flood the banks of the Nile? (At least the deceased was a very generous & hospitable sleaze, even in death.) It was amusing that one choice for Sean Jackson’s obsequies was ‘Dear Lord & Father of Mankind’, for as I recall, the opening verse continues ‘forgive our foolish ways’. The foolishness of nearly all of the characters in this book would test God’s mercy to the max. Alex Marwood’s The Wicked Girls was one of the best tragic crime fictional novels I have ever read, especially as it ends by having a character perform a beautiful act of extraordinary self-sacrifice - for someone she didn’t even particularly like. Like Wicked Girls, The Darkest Secret advances slowly on parallel chronologies set over a decade apart. But here I chafed @ the slow pace only because I so wanted to find out how this one would end. Again I was hoping for emotional engagement, tho’ the fate of the 3 y/o Coco is more pathetic than tragic in the classical sense. This book belongs to the genre of classic country house weekend mystery exemplified by Agatha Christie as played in the game of Cluedo, tho’ the setting in the shoddily but expensively refurbished house for sale in Sandbank (which probably was still a sand bank when I sailed in Poole Harbour) is anything but cosy. Tho’ some mystery story writers use every dirty trick to hide their clues, Alex Marwood plays absolutely straight. If you carefully use the materials provided in the prelims, you should suss out Coco’s fate as well as the motives & means of the perpetrators before you’re half-way through. (There is what some may find a slight twist @ the end, not absolutely necessary but a nice & appropriate nasty touch.) Which lack of mystery is quite all right because this book is really about the relationships amongst the characters, both @ the time the child vanishes & in the aftermath. Almost all are greedy, materialistic, self-centred, lecherous, snobbish, self-indulgent, & addicted to all manner of vice. But they were also utterly fascinating, and one of them would be your absolute go-to-girl if you found yourself in a tight corner, tho’ you’d pay through the nose for her talents at extrication. We also have Jimmy, a Dr Feel-Good supplier of prescriptions to rockstars (just like Michael Jackson’s in real life), as well as Claire, Sean’s spouse no. 2 and about-to-be-ex-no. 2-apparent, & the future nos. 3 & 4. (Heather, ex-no. 1, remains off-stage in Scotland.) Your political prejudices will determine how you respond to the depiction of Charles Clutterbuck (aka Clusterfuck) MP. Guardianistas will find it spot-on accurate to the minutest detail; Telegraphers will see a crude & vicious stereotype. But every reader should agree that a character so flat must’ve come out of a rolling mill, along with the rest of Sean’s friends who combine for a dark & dirty weekend where their foolish ways become that broad way that leads to destruction. Only three of the characters made me care about them at all, ex-no. 1’s daughter Camilla (aka Milly or - her preference - Mila), a principal narrator, her half sister Ruby, Coco’s identical twin sister, & altho’ many readers won’t share my attraction, Sean’s future spouse no. 4, whom Mila detests. (But then I have a weakness for bad-arse chicks & fruit-bats, @ least so long as they’re only characters in story books.) It was moving to witness the unlikely friendship that grew between the half-sisters (from now on MacDonald’s is “Mackie D’s’). But I found Mila too literary to believe. Even tho’ she lives on her inheritance & her principal occupation is clubbing, tho’ she seems to have some talents as a designer, I can imagine her rising late & recovering from last night’s excess whilst being a lover of literature. (Mild hangovers & light fiction sort well together. She also keeps a copy of DSM IV on the nightstand and studies up on PDs - in company like these definitely a practical hobby.) But I doubt she’d likely allude to Chaucer (Merchant’s Tale, @ that), Homer & Euripides (Andromache), & Ovid (Echo & Narcissus). Alex Marwood must learn to create more fully rounded & realistic characters to make the top echelon of fiction writers, but for sheer intensity she equals the very best.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    A Truly Horrible Book If you like Hermann Koch, his Summer House With Swimming Pool as well as The Dinner, you might possibly be able to stomach this way-overlong wallow in the immorality of the super-rich. But be warned, that sure instinct for pacing that fueled Alex Marwood's debut mystery, The Wicked Girls, is almost entirely absent here. It's barely even a mystery. And without the excitement of the chase to keep you going, there's not much point. It begins as a mystery, though, with a numb A Truly Horrible Book If you like Hermann Koch, his Summer House With Swimming Pool as well as The Dinner, you might possibly be able to stomach this way-overlong wallow in the immorality of the super-rich. But be warned, that sure instinct for pacing that fueled Alex Marwood's debut mystery, The Wicked Girls, is almost entirely absent here. It's barely even a mystery. And without the excitement of the chase to keep you going, there's not much point. It begins as a mystery, though, with a number of witness statements relating to the disappearance of Coco Jackson, one of the three-year-old twin daughters of millionaire developer Sean Jackson, who was celebrating his fiftieth birthday with his second wife and three other society couples, two of whom have brought their own kids for the weekend. [I would advise jotting down a cast list at this point, as the interrelationship of the various families and their children is hard to take in, but will become important.] But no time is spent on the inconclusive police investigation of Coco's disappearance. Instead, the action jumps ahead a decade. Sean Jackson has died, and most of the same people reconvene at his latest country mansion for his funeral. Chapters describing this second weekend—a reunion from hell—alternate with an almost hour-by-hour reconstruction of the orgy of indulgence ten years earlier. This is almost a 400 page book, and it is not until page 250 that an actual clue turns up to suggest that the secret of Coco's disappearance may lie among the members of the original house party. Of course, we have guessed as much, and been reading with antennae tuned to evil all along. No lack of candidates; with one partial exception, this is just about the most repellent group of people one could possibly imagine. Instead of the thrill of detection, we get the sensation of being sucked into a swamp of adultery, drunkenness, drug use, misogyny, and mindless excess. And when Marwood does reveal what happened to Coco, we still have 100 pages to go. As a mystery, it seems hardly worthwhile reading on; and as a further exercise in deceit and degradation, really who cares? True, she does add a twist or two before the end. But the last of these, a particularly vicious little kink involving the one character who seemed totally unbelievable from the start, was enough to slam my rating from three-point-something right down to two stars. So why not one star or none? Because, although I did not wholly like any of the characters, there was some satisfaction in seeing the woman who had been presented as the bitch of the piece at the beginning gradually emerge in a sympathetic light. And Camilla Jackson, Coco's older half-sister, who becomes the narrator of the modern chapters, is pretty much a mess, but how could she not be? But I was sympathetic to the growing bond between her and Coco's surviving twin, Ruby. And such interest as I had came from seeing her as the "detective," gradually coming closer to the truth. Which made it the final insult, in defiance of all mystery conventions, that she (Ruby) should end the book palmed off with yet another lie, and that the last disgusting revelation should be given to the reader alone. Or perhaps I just miss Poirot addressing the assembled characters, elucidating the mystery, and handing the culprit over to justice? No justice here, and still less light.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The Darkest Secret – Another Winner Alex Marwood returns to brilliant form with this gripping psychological thriller that leaves you gasping for breath to the very last sentence. This is a character led thriller where some of the characters, as in life, just leave you cold, and come across as looking out for themselves, while another is looking out for her sister, trying to protect her from this group of parasites around their father. At times this is an incredible moving thriller where you can sy The Darkest Secret – Another Winner Alex Marwood returns to brilliant form with this gripping psychological thriller that leaves you gasping for breath to the very last sentence. This is a character led thriller where some of the characters, as in life, just leave you cold, and come across as looking out for themselves, while another is looking out for her sister, trying to protect her from this group of parasites around their father. At times this is an incredible moving thriller where you can sympathise with some of the characters and just feel anger towards the others, who come across as self-serving. Marwood uses some brilliant techniques, of taking us back to events seen through each other the characters eyes and the narrative of now through the eyes of one of the sisters, Camilla, known as Mila. Mila and Ruby who are the two most central characters in the story are attending their father’s funeral, and it is the first time they have met since events that happened in 2004, when Ruby was 3 and Mila was 15. Mila and Ruby both would like to know what happened to Ruby’s twin sister Coco, and throughout the book we are given glimpses back to 2004, when she disappeared. All the other characters we see the events through their eyes and actions. Both Mila and Ruby know everyone of their father’s friends and his new wife know more than they are telling them, and do not who really they can trust. Their new stepmother is behaving the most strange even though she got what she eventually wanted, Sean Jackson. The intertwined story of 2004 and the present day presents some interesting views and you have massive sympathy for Ruby and Mila, who seem to be dealt with like mushrooms. Shovelled with sh... and kept in the dark. If I go on to far I could give away so many of the interesting twists and turns in the plot. Alex Marwood, like a magician uses slight of hand and misdirection to that you can never really work out who did what to whom, you have suspicions but that is it. This is the sort of plot that even Hercule Poirot would have struggled to solve as each of Sean’s friends stands out as someone you would not believe if they told you what time it was. The Dark Secrets is yet another winner from Alex Marwood, in that you are really kept guessing to the very end, and still have hopes for Coco and Ruby. The prose that Marwood uses draws you in and before you know it you are half way through the book, this is an absolute stunner of a thriller. Alex Marwood’s writing will grab you by the throat and keep a hold on you until the final full stop.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kate~Bibliophile Book Club

    I don't know where to start with this review. First off, I read this book in about four sittings over two days, which in itself is a good sign. I just feel a little unsure about it though. It took me a while to get into the authors style of writing, as well as the chronology as it switched between characters and years which was confusing to me for the first quarter of the book. The characters in The Darkest Secret are some of the most hate-inducing people I've read about in a while. Egotistical, n I don't know where to start with this review. First off, I read this book in about four sittings over two days, which in itself is a good sign. I just feel a little unsure about it though. It took me a while to get into the authors style of writing, as well as the chronology as it switched between characters and years which was confusing to me for the first quarter of the book. The characters in The Darkest Secret are some of the most hate-inducing people I've read about in a while. Egotistical, narcissistic and scathing are just some of the words I would use to describe them. The only characters I actually felt any emotion for were Camilla and Ruby, two of Sean's daughters. Sean being Coco's dad and Ruby being her twin sister. Mila is one of his daughters from a previous marriage. By telling the story of Coco's disappearance, and Sean's death years later, in alternating chapters, the reader gets to see the characters better and gauge how they have changed over the years. This review is a bit disjointed as I don't want to go into any detail about the plot. It's hard to get some of my points across without revealing things the author skilfully reveals in the course of the novel. The way Marwood has written this book, it unfurls slowly, like an animal stalking prey. It is definitely a great book, there's no denying that fact. It left me feeling uncomfortable, angry, shocked and saddened in equal measure. Not many books evoke these sorts of feelings in me and I think that's why I find this review hard to write. There's a lot I want to say, but I can't without spoiling some of the twists and turns. Sufficed to say, Alex Marwood has the perfectly crafted novel, despicable characters written alongside innocent children, and the events that bring their worlds crumbling down around them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    What a waste of time! Boring and confusing with all this back and forth revealing of the storyline! The characters, ten, twelve all of them stupid irresponsible insane adults! And a messed up crazy teenager among other messed up children! Too many weirdos in the neighborhood!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Even though I had pre-ordered this book (after all it is an eagerly anticipated Alex Marwood book, and I had done much anticipating!), I was lucky enough to be provided an advanced copy from the publisher. So my thanks go to all concerned for that. We know from the blurb that little 3 year old Coco goes missing during her father, Sean's, 50th birthday party celebration weekend away. And that the story is told in two narratives, one during that tragic weekend and one during the funeral weekend of Even though I had pre-ordered this book (after all it is an eagerly anticipated Alex Marwood book, and I had done much anticipating!), I was lucky enough to be provided an advanced copy from the publisher. So my thanks go to all concerned for that. We know from the blurb that little 3 year old Coco goes missing during her father, Sean's, 50th birthday party celebration weekend away. And that the story is told in two narratives, one during that tragic weekend and one during the funeral weekend of Coco's father many years later. The whodunit, though the underlying theme, is not what this book is about. No, the essence of this tale are the characters and all their vileness in all its shining, shameful glory. Ms Marwood is pitch perfect in her ability to capture nuances of characters and settings. It's a feat that shines through in all her books. Whichever character she describes we always get a good feel of who they are and what drives them as people, be it good or bad. One of my favourite parts of the book was the telling of Claire's story in the recent timeframe. I don't want to say too much about it but what I will say is that I nearly dove onto a cup of sugar. Brilliantly observed and everything I hate about that way of thinking/living. Bleugh! We're given respite in the characters of two of Sean's children, Mila and Ruby and I very much enjoyed the interplay between these two. Their relationship hightlighting the dysfunctionality of their younger days and yet finding an ability to make good of their past and try and put things behind them. As the book is essentially character driven what really plays out is as you would expect reading along, so the very end came as no surprise. More a feeling of it being fitting; sad in an obsessively tragic way, but wrapped up well. The Darkest Secret is clever, character led, insightful storytelling with children at the heart of it all. Through no fault of their own being dragged into a murky world of egotistical selfishness that leaves you feeling for the innocent ones. If only fate could have dealt them a better hand. Recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    This book was recommended by a couple of my Goodread friends who had enjoyed reading this novel and thought it would appeal to me as well. How right they were. A psychological thriller that grew on me the more I read and kept me eager to know more. If I am honest I was not hooked from the start but I found that it just got better and better and by the end of it wanted to read more from this author. In 2004 Coco Jackson aged three disappears from the bed she shares with her twin sister, Ruby, while This book was recommended by a couple of my Goodread friends who had enjoyed reading this novel and thought it would appeal to me as well. How right they were. A psychological thriller that grew on me the more I read and kept me eager to know more. If I am honest I was not hooked from the start but I found that it just got better and better and by the end of it wanted to read more from this author. In 2004 Coco Jackson aged three disappears from the bed she shares with her twin sister, Ruby, while others celebrate her millionaire father's 50th birthday party. Eleven years later Father Sean Jackson dies and his daughter from his first marriage, Mila, is asked to take her half sister Ruby, who she has lost contact with to his funeral. The book switches between the 2 dates examining Coco's disappearance and the unrest of her sister and half sisters. The dialogue between the two sisters as they rediscover each other is very touching and they learn more about the father they hardly knew. I would like to thank Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group for supplying me with a copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review. This is my first Alex Marwood book but certainly not my last.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Fenton

    wow. This book ticked all the boxes for me personally. A group of extremely unlikeable characters, a mystery regarding 3 year old twin Coco disappearance unravels over a 15 year period told from the very unreliable narrators of this story. A realistic depiction of divorce, step parents and truly dysfunction families but with an underlying sadness. Fabulous book. Highly recommend it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Wow, I REALLY liked this. This was the book that Liane Moriarty tried to write with Truly, Madly, Guilty, but about two thousand times better. This is more of a thriller than a mystery - if you are paying attention as you read, you will figure out what happened - so it's the characters that make the book. All of them were truly awful. I thoroughly enjoyed them. The Darkest Secret takes place ten years ago on a very British holiday, where Sean Jackson is celebrating his 50th birthday, and in the p Wow, I REALLY liked this. This was the book that Liane Moriarty tried to write with Truly, Madly, Guilty, but about two thousand times better. This is more of a thriller than a mystery - if you are paying attention as you read, you will figure out what happened - so it's the characters that make the book. All of them were truly awful. I thoroughly enjoyed them. The Darkest Secret takes place ten years ago on a very British holiday, where Sean Jackson is celebrating his 50th birthday, and in the present day, when his family is reuniting for his funeral. Sean is a serial monogamist with four wives and a handful of daughters, and it's the women orbiting Sean that tell a large part of the story. The fateful 50th birthday celebrations are marked by the disappearance of Sean's young daughter, Coco Jackson, a mystery that is still unresolved by the time he dies. The primary present-day narrator is Mila, his daughter, who was only present for part of the birthday weekend. Mila picks up her younger half-sister Ruby, Coco's twin, to go to the funeral, and on the way she's also able to pick up pieces of the truth about Coco's fate. What I really liked about this book is how British it was. There are a couple of political passages that don't even read like English (I need a translator), and the girls are continually wearing mixes of prints with Barbour jackets on their seaside holiday in Bournemouth. Underneath the Britishness, Alex Marwood is clearly an excellent character writer, and I found each of her characters (SUSPECTS) to be interesting, nuanced, and hateable in their own way. I had a little bit of trouble in the first part of the book figuring out what era I was in, but once I was past that I flew through this book. The pacing is excellent, and it's easy to read in a couple of sittings. It's great for vacation. And the ending (view spoiler)[twist is EXCELLENT - it's what elevated this book from fine to great, in my opinion. All the signs are there - of course that's what Simone did!! (hide spoiler)] . I realized a couple days ago that this book is probably based on the case of (view spoiler)[ Madeleine McCann (hide spoiler)] , with some obvious differences in characters, setting, and solution. Even if you know the broad strokes of the case, though, the real charm of this book is Alex Marwood's writing and the characters. It makes me want to pick up everything else that she's written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carol - Reading Writing and Riesling

    My View: For me the scene setting and character development took just a little too long. However it did set the scene extraordinarily well – a life of pretentious self-absorption, a “look at me” “look at me” generation (and I am not talking gen Y!) full of unlikeable characters and over the top behaviours. There was not a lot to like here and a lot to loathe. Suddenly all that changed! I was engrossed in the narrative – the cold and calculating behaviours, the self-absorption, the lies and the tu My View: For me the scene setting and character development took just a little too long. However it did set the scene extraordinarily well – a life of pretentious self-absorption, a “look at me” “look at me” generation (and I am not talking gen Y!) full of unlikeable characters and over the top behaviours. There was not a lot to like here and a lot to loathe. Suddenly all that changed! I was engrossed in the narrative – the cold and calculating behaviours, the self-absorption, the lies and the turmoil, the obvious effect that this self-indulgent lifestyle had on the younger members of this cast and the shocking tug at your heart strings disappearance of a child. Later Camila/Mila, with the maturity/responsibilities that a death of a parent forces upon her somehow morphs into a somewhat more likeable character, Ruby her half-sister is unblemished by her birth rites, other than that the vast cast of characters are totally unlikable and unfortunately somewhat realistic. Somehow you find yourself absorbed in this read about ugly people with very ugly behaviours and the mystery regarding the disappearance of baby Coco. The author leaves subtle clues (or maybe my intuition is just spot on) but I guessed the demise of baby Coco and the orchestrator and the reasoning behind the act and where we could find Coco. (No spoilers here). But the final chapter left me gutted! We are not given a neat and tidy happy ending or cause for too much optimism – and in the final chapter we are dumbstruck by yet another lie that leaves the reader gasping! Powerful, dark yet utterly compelling. **Robert Gott – you will find Charlie Clutterbuck an interesting character 

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    Psychological thrillers have the power to wreak havoc with readers emotions, offering the opportunity to see a characters life descend into free fall and leave devastation in their wake and readers agonising. Some, however, simply entertain and lack the depth which is required to make a significant impression and The Darkest Secret is very much in this later camp, and aimed at the chick-lit end of the psychological thriller market. Having said that, it is passably entertaining and if you can eng Psychological thrillers have the power to wreak havoc with readers emotions, offering the opportunity to see a characters life descend into free fall and leave devastation in their wake and readers agonising. Some, however, simply entertain and lack the depth which is required to make a significant impression and The Darkest Secret is very much in this later camp, and aimed at the chick-lit end of the psychological thriller market. Having said that, it is passably entertaining and if you can engage with the odious caricatures who populate the network of Sean Jackson this novel has the potential to amuse. The Darkest Secret focuses on Sean Jackson, a filthy rich property magnate making a mint developing the properties he acquires, with a very keen eye for a quick profit, a chance to gloat and women of all varieties - wife, mistress or future conquests alike. Taking his similarly cretinous circle of friends, nicknamed the Jackson Associates, he decamps to his most stunning development to date, Harbour View, in the premier league footballers playground of Sandbanks to celebrate his 50th birthday. It is over the course of this bank holiday weekend that one of his three-year-old identical twins, Coco, disappears. The novel opens with an email plea from media advisor, Maria Gavilas, part of Sean Jackson's self-absorbed clique and party guest asking for sightings of Coco, followed by a series of witness statements taken after the event in 2004 which highlight how seriously matters were taken by the police. Marwood then turns to the actual events of 2004 with the second and much younger wife of Sean, Claire, swiftly hightailing it back to London after finding him otherwise occupied with mistress and interior designer extraordinaire, Linda Innes. Leaving Sean in charge of their three-year-old twins, Coco and Ruby, the condescending party crowd are only too pleased to see the back of Claire; lawyer Robert Gavilas and wife Maria, repugnant MP Charles Clutterbuck and wife Imogen and designer Linda and her carousing partner, a doctor by the name of James Orizio. The associated offspring that need attention are a mere headache at best and with Sean's older daughters India and Camilla realising their father wasn't even expecting them and deserting the gathering, the insufferable party guests and the birthday boy are left to indulge in a surfeit of exquisite food, gallons of the finest wines and patting themselves on the back whilst adopting a very hands-off approach to parenting. Fast forward twelve years and readers see a twenty-seven year old Camilla, now known as Mila, having the unenviable task of identifying her fathers body after a fatal heart attack at the age of sixty-two in a London hotel and handcuffed to the bed. Both older sister Indy and Mila feel largely ambivalent, having little to do with a man now on his fourth wife, but both do bear the hallmarks of his involvement in their lives. Indy has responded to the disarray of their fathers lifestyle by imposing stringent order on her life in Australia and Mila is clearly as party loving as Sean. After identifying his body, attending the funeral is given short shrift by Mila, who remembers that she did most of her mourning when her father walked out age nine. When Mila is contacted out of the blue by second wife, Claire, now a recluse and bearing the scars of her own involvement with Sean, she is asked to accompany Coco's twin and half-sister Ruby to the funeral. Reluctantly agreeing and reuniting the attendees of his now notorious 2004 party weekend, Mila and Ruby set out on a voyage of discovery only for Ruby to reveal that she has never been told the truth about that weekend. Not knowing much more herself, Mila and Ruby bond and confront their memories, piecing together parts of the story as a dual timeline drip-feeds the actual 2004 party events. Alex Marwood runs the risk of confusing readers with the multitude of characters that she introduces in the first thirty pages of the novel and the convoluted connections between the group. The Darkest Secret would certainly have benefitted from a guest list of attendees at the party, as a handy aide-memoire for readers. Having said that, I didn't find this a difficult novel to follow from that point onwards, despite two differing timelines and every other chapter changing from a third person narrative from the point of view of a specific character in 2004, back to first person narration by Mila in the present day. This inevitably sounds more complicated than it appears but as readers become used to the format it is easy to follow. Whilst The Darkest Secret is not a novel that I would want to invest much emotion in, finding the characters rather one-dimensional and parodies of the worst stereotypes, it does make for an amusing and lively read. Incidentally, the large number of guests at the party means Marwood never more than skims the surface in developing their characters and I was frustrated that the only two who appeared to be filled out in any depth were Mila and Ruby. In setting the scene which introduces the 2004 gathering, several long winded passages, particularly regarding the swimming pool liner installation and certain building specifics which ramble a little could have been pared back to make this a more accessible read. The Darkest Secret reminded me of The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish which also had the potential to make a significant statement but instead opts to aim for detailing the debauched lifestyle of the characters, delivering more examples of the behaviour of the "live fast, die young" set than offering any real depth of understanding. Sadly the 2004 timeline is pretty repetitive, and whilst Alex Marwood had the potential for focusing on the gradual blossoming of a friendship between the half-sisters Mila and Ruby and highlighting Jackson's legacy, she instead focused on the revelry of the Jackson Associates. Contrast The Darkest Secret with Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant and the central character, Paul Morris, himself amoral and selfish, but Durrant crucially makes her readers care about his outcome. Sadly the characters in The Darkest Secret remained largely vacuous and as the fate of Coco becomes blatantly obvious at the half way point, this overly lengthy novel descended a little into bad taste. I did admire how Marwood turned my initial dislike for second wife and twins mother, Claire, on its head by allowing me a glimpse into her perspective on life with Sean and forced me to conclude that perhaps I had been too rash and blinded by the boorish party set. The twin swapping behaviour which occupies much of the final few hours of the party of 2004 is unnecessary and trifling, meaning that for me, with a lack of suspense and lack of concern this novel ended like a damp squib. A psychological thriller designed for beach reading and for readers with a strong palate. Whilst I enjoyed the audio version of an earlier novel by Alex Marwood, The Killer Next Door, I was not impressed by her treatment of the subject matter and could not really engage with her delivery throughout The Darkest Secret. Admittedly the storyline draws parallels with the disappearance of Madeline McCann, but even comparing the behaviour of the adults in The Darkest Secret with the Tapas Seven does a disservice to the seriousness of that investigation and seems like a cheap shot.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fay Roberts

    In 2004 three year old Coco Jackson disappears from the bed she is sharing with her twin sister, Ruby, during her millionaire father's 50th birthday party. In 2015 Sean Jackson dies and his daughter from his first marriage, Mila, is charged with taking her half-sister Ruby, who she hasn't seen since 2004, to his funeral. Switching between the two eras The Darkest Secret examines the mystery of Coco's disappearance and the fall out for her sister and half sisters. Billed as a thriller I would prob In 2004 three year old Coco Jackson disappears from the bed she is sharing with her twin sister, Ruby, during her millionaire father's 50th birthday party. In 2015 Sean Jackson dies and his daughter from his first marriage, Mila, is charged with taking her half-sister Ruby, who she hasn't seen since 2004, to his funeral. Switching between the two eras The Darkest Secret examines the mystery of Coco's disappearance and the fall out for her sister and half sisters. Billed as a thriller I would probably place this more in the mystery or contemporary category. The edge of danger and suspense that normally categorizes a thriller is missing. For me this was actually a good thing. The more in depth character analysis and plot line suited my personal tastes. This was well-written, absorbing and full of characters you can love to hate. The author even did a skillful of job of painting certain elements of their detestable behavior in an understandable and almost sympathetic light. Inevitable comparisons are going to be made to the Madeline McCann case and I can't decide if this will help or hinder the book. There are plenty of twists and turns and information skilfully paced and drip fed throughout. The ending is a bit of twist and left me clamoring for more. I'm desperate for more information on Sean's second and third marriages and would love for some kind of closure on the lives of his children. A great read, a modern slant on the traditional Agatha Christie.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    I am very torn about the rating of this book. On the one had, I zipped through it, so it's obviously very engaging and readable. On the other hand, having read a few others afterwards, the details are already growing fuzzy, telling me that this book was, unfortunately, not terribly memorable. I think this has largely to do with the cast of almost exclusively unlikable characters, or at the very least one's I couldn't connect with very well. Milly and Ruby are okay, but the others are all rather I am very torn about the rating of this book. On the one had, I zipped through it, so it's obviously very engaging and readable. On the other hand, having read a few others afterwards, the details are already growing fuzzy, telling me that this book was, unfortunately, not terribly memorable. I think this has largely to do with the cast of almost exclusively unlikable characters, or at the very least one's I couldn't connect with very well. Milly and Ruby are okay, but the others are all rather despicable. Added to that is the sheer number of characters and the jumping around in time and POVs that felt, at times, a little jarring. That said, the premise of the story is very intriguing and Marwood plots it out quite well. The ending is not entirely satisfying, but it is fitting. I had guessed a part of the resolution, but the final revelation came as a surprise. This is my third book by Marwood and probably the one I found most compulsively readable, despite some of the niggles discussed above, so I will probably be keeping an eye out for whatever she comes up with next. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erth

    Zzzz boring! Lots of jumping around. It's hard getting a grip on things happening and the characters. I'm 20% into the book and am bored and confused. Zzzz boring! Lots of jumping around. It's hard getting a grip on things happening and the characters. I'm 20% into the book and am bored and confused.

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