Friday, January 13, 2017

THE DARKEST SECRET by Alex Marwood ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

This novel was an unusual one for me in that I pulled it off the new arrivals shelf at the library completely on a whim--something I absolutely never do. There are so many books for which I have read reviews and heard author interviews and whose release I have anticipated for months. Quite simply, I can't finish all those books and so don't even bother pulling random works that might end up being awful. Rather quickly after setting my library haul on my nightstand, I was pulling this one out to put in my library return pile. Then something made me pause. I reread the jacket copy. It just sounded so intriguing with its missing child and litany of family drama; I compromised. I looked to see if it was available on audio--a format in which I read many lighter, less thought-out reads. I'm so happy that it was, because not only was the book great entertainment, the audio was very well done as well.
This type of novel, a tale of subterfuge and slowly unfolding truths, reads particularly well in audio. It took a bit to get into the book, which begins with two young protagonists crashing their father's birthday party--a party which will end in the tragic mystery that sets up the rest of the novel--but once it got going, it held me right up until the very twisted ending. I love it when I am completely blindsided and yet have no trouble believing where the author just led me. This novel definitely will take you there. The plot was just that well-crafted.

While suspense novels usually do plot very well, often I find that characters are a bit stereotypical or one-dimensional. Not so here. This was my first novel by Alex Marwood, but as someone who loves character development, I will definitely be exploring some of her earlier work. Her characters are impacted by the events that happen to them, and she writes into them all such humanity that as they are pulled by the tide of events, you find yourself rooting for the ones you've become emotionally invested in and hoping the ones you love to hate will get their deserved ends.

If you enjoy a story where the layers slowly unfold, progressively easing closer and closer to the heart of the matter, and one where the characters are diverse and realistically sketched, then definitely give this novel a read or a listen. Bear with the slow start; it absolutely picks up steam. It would be perfect for a road trip or to keep you entertained during a lengthy project.

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