Daisy Darker is Definitely Delightfully Dark
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published Aug 2022; 335 pages
My post title may be torturously alliterative, but also kinda accurate. Although I have several Alice Feeney books on my TBR, this is the first I've read. I'll be moving the others to the top of the list and hope they are equally entertaining.
First Sentence: "I was born with a broken heart. The day I arrived into this lonely little world was also the first time I died."
This is a strong version of a closed-room mystery. All the members of a family gather at the remote home of the Grandma, who is turning 80 years old - and her birthday is on Halloween! Attendees are her errant son, his bitter ex-wife, their three daughters, one teenage great granddaughter, and a man who is a long time family friend. The tension and animosity between family members is evident from the beginning but, as usual for them, all the slights and hurts are hidden and manifest in sniping and not-so-subtle jabs. It's been a while since I've read such a terribly dysfunctional family.
"We make moments with our families. Sometimes we stitch them together over time, to make more of them than they were. We share them and hold on to them together as if they were treasure, even when they start to rust."
The structure of Daisy Darker is told first person from the perspective of the youngest daughter, Daisy, who is 29. The story moves back in time as Daisy remembers specific events of her childhood and then returns to the present where a storm and the tide have trapped everyone in the house. Sound familiar? The house is creaky and creepy and, in fact, there's a drawing/floor plan at the beginning of the book which immediately implies the importance of the house to the story. It's almost its own character.
"You can hear everything in this old house. If there is no chatter, or storm, or TV, or music to muffle the sound, it is possible to hear the creaks and groans of the building whenever someone moves inside it. With the constant soundtrack of the sea, being here often feels like being on an old ship. One that might sink at any moment. Seaglass has thin walls that like to eavesdrop, and tired floorboards that like to talk. This house has never been good at keeping secrets."
As the evening progresses, people start to die, of course. Each murder is by a very different method and the ones left alive get increasingly afraid. The tension builds beautifully as events unfold. Then, there's that ending.
This story is delightfully dark. The people are loathsome. The plot is creatively standard (is that a thing?). The house has a wonderfully gothic vibe. When I started the book, I was prepared for a standard locked room mystery but came to appreciate this is much more than standard. There's foreshadowing of a terrible event that kept drawing me along; there's a twist or two that are rewarding. All in all, this is a terrific thriller / mystery. Definitely recommended when you want a bit of "dark" in your reading, or a taste of devilishly dysfunctional family dynamics.
In rereading the review, I realize I might be giving the impression of a slightly lighthearted or humorous mystery. It definitely is NOT. However, it made me smile in enjoyment and appreciation of the good storytelling and truly terrible situations and characters. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.