The Darkest Secret

Alex Marwood certainly knows how to make a book stick with you, although in this case, I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Twelve years ago, Mila Jackson’s three-year-old half-sister Coco went missing. Her twin, Ruby, was left unscathed. Nobody knows what happened to Coco, and she still hasn’t resurfaced, even more than a decade later.

Mila hadn’t thought much about Coco or Ruby in those twelve years, but now their father, Sean, is dead. Although Mila hasn’t seen much of Sean lately (or ever), she feels that she should go. Somehow she gets roped into taking Ruby with her.

Sean was not an ideal father– he married four different times, and had five children, none of whom he particularly cared for. He was more interested in his own pleasures, and being with his drinking buddies. Mila calls them the Jackson Associates: the same friends Sean has always had, who are willing to party endlessly and help cover up his many infidelities.

The story moves from past to present in alternating chapters. Mila is the narrator for the present, while the past flip-flops between characters. From Mila, we get what is going on surrounding Sean’s death and funeral, while the other characters slowly divulge what happened on the days surrounding Coco’s disappearance. As the past chapters tell us, and Mila soon finds out, there are more secrets about that night than anyone lets on. Someone might know what happened to Coco, and it’s not what anyone thought.

The story is well-written, and moves along nicely. The chapters from the past slowly expose everyone’s secrets. But I will say, I had a hard time reading it because I disliked 90% of the characters. Sean and all his friends were narcissistic a-holes who didn’t care about anything but getting drunk or high; all but one of Sean’s wives were kind of evil; even Mila was kind of a let down, choosing to spend her life partying and living off of her trust fund. Some of them got better as the book went on, but it is hard to read about a man having such little regard for his wife and children.

All that aside, the ending is a pretty solid twist. If you’re a fan of crime novels, even ones featuring a bunch of jerks, you’ll probably like this.

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