Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Alice Feeney’s Daisy Darker is a twisty turny thriller which offers more than a nod to Agatha Christie in the way that it has been structured and in terms of its plot. Set on an island in the middle of a storm and involving the Darker family, an inauspicious name if ever there was one, our narrator is Daisy who describes the night that her relatives gather to celebrate Nana’s birthday, Nana being the family’s matriarch. The gathering allows Daisy to reminisce and we gain a picture of the Darker family with all of their flaws and less than desirable personality traits.

There are nine characters in all: Daisy, our eyes and ears; Nana, the head of the Darker family and grandmother to Rose, Lily and Daisy; Frank, Nana’s son and father to the girls; Nancy, the girls’ mother, divorced from Frank; Rose, Daisy’s eldest sister; Lily, Daisy’s middle sister; Trixie, Lily’s daughter and finally, Conor, the boy desired by all the sisters; and not to be forgotten, Poppins, Nana’s Old English Sheepdog.

I really enjoyed this book in every way: the setting of an island home off the rugged coast of Cornwall, England, provides the perfect environment for the claustrophobic atmosphere of entrapment that Feeney is trying to create, especially as it is only accessible from the mainland at low tide. Add to that a storm and the fact that it’s Halloween, the night of the year when in traditional Pagan folklore, spirits are meant to roam our world, and the shades of darkness descending are palpable as the night progresses. Throw in a dysfunctional family of self-centred and uncaring individuals and you have a novel, the dark elements of which, will combine and create a story of guesses and red herrings which, if you are a reader who loves suspense and puzzles will have you head-scratching and endeavouring to conjecture throughout.

To say more about how the book progresses would be to give away its secrets and the book is full of them, the whole history of a family and its tensions and rivalries laid bare by degrees as the night progresses. If you are an Agatha Christie fan, looking for something modern that is comparable, this book is for you.

All in all, a great fireside read under a blanket with hot chocolate, to contrast with the dark side of humanity that is revealed in its pages.

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