The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

imageApologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.

My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco?

Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed…

When Mila gets a call to tell her her father Sean is dead, she isn’t overcome with grief. They were estranged and, even when they weren’t she didn’t particularly like her dad. Still, he was her dad and so she heads out of town to his country pile, where he lived with his fourth wife, to attend the funeral. Along the way, she visits wife number two and picks up her younger half-sister Ruy who, unlike Mila, didn’t hate her dad.

Mila’s family is very complicated and very dysfunctional, as are her father’s group of friends, who are also there for the funeral; they were the weekend Coco disappeared too. Neither family or friends seem to have recovered from the disappearance. This includes Ruby, Coco’s twin, who is convinced she isn’t being told the truth about what happened that weekend and is determined to find out more, forcing Mila to revisit the past – or the little she remembers it as she was only a teenager – as well as confront her present and the young woman she’s become.

Mila is the main voice in the book, telling her part of the story in the past and narrating what she sees, hears, thinks and feels in the present. Filling in the gaps are Coco’s mother, father, and friends – with their parts in the weekend slowly been revealed. It isn’t a pretty picture and, as a reader, it was hard to know where to lay blame or assign guilt because each chapter gave me a different perspective as more secrets were revealed. Alex Marwood lets thing unravel brilliantly, never rushing and never revealing too much. I found I couldn’t stop turning pages.

She also managed to keep me interested in what are, for the most part, pretty dislikeable characters. With the exception of Ruby none had many redeeming features and all wound me up but I still kept reading. Even Mila was far from perfect, though she grew on me, and grew up, as the book went on. Each character was all cleverly written, which their own distinctive (and ugly) personalities. These were exaggerated to the point of comedy at times and in other books this might not have worked but here it did.

Clever is also a word I’d use to describe the book as a whole. It was well written, well plotted and a great idea. I had read good things about The Darkest Secret before picking up my copy and so had high hopes of enjoying it as a result. I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed, although it was quite the novel I expected to read. What had I expected? A really good piece of crime writing. What did I get? Something more complex and ambiguous, where not everyone I thought should get punished does and where not all my questions ended up being answered. I was left wanting more.  As a result, I would have to say I loved this book. Highly recommended.



  1. I completely agree with you here Emma. This is good but not what I was expecting. And I don’t know what I was expecting but it just wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted it to be!


    • Shame it wasn’t as fulfilling as you’d hoped. With expectations it’s the joy of misleading blurbs and back covers…I know they have to sell books but I do get caught out by them.


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