They call Alice Feeney “The Queen of Twists.” It’s an apt title — Daisy Darker‘s revelations come at nearly a twist-a-chapter clip — but don’t let it fool you into thinking Feeney’s work is all about the gimmick. Her latest novel stands strong on its characters and setting; the constant game-changing revelations are the icing on an already delicious cake.
The Darker family — our narrator, Daisy; her sisters, Rose and Lily; Lily’s daughter, Trixie; father Frank and mother Nancy; and family friend Conor — gather at Seaglass, the coastal home of their matriarch, known to one and all as Nana. It’s the day before Halloween, and the day before Nana’s birthday. Sounds like a happy occasion, right? Well, the Darker family comes carrying a heap of baggage, and the internal fractures are on display from the moment they walk through Nana’s door.
Nana is an eccentric woman, a writer and illustrator of children’s books who makes her children punch a timeclock when they come to visit. She has brought her family together not just to celebrate her birthday, but also to let them know that she feels her life is drawing to a close. This announcement leads to revelations about the future of her lucrative estate…revelations that are not pleasing to the majority of those gathered.
Hours later, Nana is found laying in a pool of blood.
When night falls the waters around Seaglass rise, making it inaccessible — and inescapable — until morning light. The Darker family is trapped with Nana’s killer, and with every hour that passes another body turns up. This is where Feeney really goes to work, ratcheting up the tension an hour at a time, while slowly peeling away the layers of the complicated family dynamics at play. There’s much for the Darker family to learn about each other, and themselves, and the way it all plays out will have you guessing (and gasping) right through to the end.
Feeney is great at creating locations that are practically characters themselves (see her previous novel Rock Paper Scissors for another great example), and Nana’s rambling seaside home is no exception. Daisy Darker‘s sense of place, combined with its strong characters and keep-you-guessing thrill ride of a plot, make this one of the most fun reads I’ve had so far this year.