A crumbling gothic mansion on a remote island, inaccessible for eight hours a day because of the tide; the reunion of family members who, at best, are estranged; the reveal of a will's contents: these all escalate Daisy Darker, the suspenseful fifth novel from British author Alice Feeney (Rock, Paper, Scissors; Sometimes I Lie). Add in no cellular service and an out-of-service landline. What could go wrong in this character-driven thriller?
The Darker family reluctantly gathers at grandmother Nana's Cornish tidal island estate to celebrate her 80th birthday: Daisy Darker; her older sisters, Lily and Rose; their divorced parents; and Lily's 15-year-old daughter, Trixie. Nana, believing she will die in the coming year, has decided to tell her family who will inherit her mansion and the fortune that she made writing a children's book based on Daisy. Aside from Nana, Trixie and (sometimes) Daisy, the Darkers are a decidedly unlikable family, prone to hatred and jealousies; they relish the destruction of happy moments. Ill as a child because she was "born with a broken heart," Daisy is accustomed to a lack of attention and affection from her mother and sisters. Lily, who resents any attention her teenage daughter receives, engages in emotional abuse toward Trixie.
As unappealing as these characters are, Feeney gives them quirks, ones that make their motives and secrets riveting and that propel this brisk plot with all of its surprising twists. Feeney unabashedly enters Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None territory when family members are killed, their deaths accompanied by macabre poems. At the same time, she makes the plot of the captivating Daisy Darker uniquely her own. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer