Book review: The Darkest Secret

The whole world knows that three-year-old Coco Jackson went missing overnight on the night of 29th August, 2004. The email appeal to look for her whereabouts was seen by over a million people, making her face one of the most recognised on the planet. And yet 10 years on there is still no sign of her. So what really happened at that exclusive, luxury Sandbanks development? And do the people who spent the weekend with her know more than they are letting on?

There’s unpopular, moany Claire, cast by the press as the neglectful mother after her daughter’s disappearance.

Then there’s her husband Sean, a wealthy and wholly self-absorbed property developer who doesn’t see a problem inviting his mistress Linda and her husband to the weekend’s festivities along with their closest friends the publicist Maria Gavila and her family.

It’s a masterclass in tightly wound plotting

And finally there’s the ghastly Clutterbucks, the most absurd Tory power-couple in history – but frankly they haven’t got a clue about most things.

This dark and gripping book focuses on two weekends – the fateful one when Coco disappeared and one 10 years later when the Jacksons and their hangers-on gather for Sean’s funeral. Coco’s half sister Mila and her twin Ruby make awkward company as they travel to their father’s funeral, still struggling to come to terms with what happened without knowing the full truth. And then, slowly, the story unfolds.

I’ve already gone on about the flaws in thrillers. The unlikely character jumps, the crazy twists that are just out to shock… well, this book has none of those. It’s a masterclass in tightly wound plotting with each character perfectly primed to play their part, and with the seeds of each twist subtly sown to make it completely believable. And if you happen to spot one coming you feel rather pleased with yourself rather than let down by the author.

darkest secret coverThe sign of a good crime yarn is how you feel afterwards when the writer’s spell wears off. Does it still add up? Were there clues laid out for you all along which you just failed to spot because they were too well woven into the fabric of the writing? This book ticks all those boxes, adding in acute social observation, wry humour and characters you’ll love to hate. A tasty, twisty treat.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood is out now.

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