It’s Halloween night, Nana’s 80th birthday, and she summons her children and grandchildren to her house, a crumbling Victorian on a tiny remote Cornish island. Based on a fortune teller’s prediction some years ago, it may be her last.
To say Nana is eccentric would be an understatement. And the rest of the family? Let‘s just say they put the fun in dysFUNctional, if you love dysfunctional families as much as I do. Their dialogue is often hilarious and they do not hesitate to go after each other with their claws out.
Nana reads them her will at dinner, and predictably, not everyone is happy, and the evening ends on a sour note. When the clocks (all 80 of them) strike midnight, everyone is awakened by a scream and someone is found dead. There is a poem on the chalkboard in the kitchen that predicts each guest’s demise and explains why they deserve to die.
Each hour on the hour, someone else is found dead. There are other strange elements at play but I won’t ruin the fun. With a nod to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, this was a fresh new take on a locked door mystery, one that is oozing with atmosphere and menace.
This was truly unputdownable. It;’s often difficult to pinpoint why you fall in love with some books and not others, but this one had everything…Daisy, the narrator, who literally has a “broken heart”, the family secrets, the writing, the creepy old house, eccentric characters, the menace of the tide coming in to trap the occupants in the house for hours, the deaths every hour, the alternating timeline between the past and present….and all on Halloween night.
And that ending! The potential suspects are naturally limited and it was fun for Marialyce, my reading buddy, and I to speculate. But there were still a couple of surprises that blew us away. In the hands of a lesser author, I might have rolled my eyes but I found it clever and brilliant! The bread crumbs were there, but I missed them.
Stephanie Racine narrated the audiobook and her narration was phenomenal. I had both the print and audio versions, and I found I preferred the audio. I highly recommend listening to this one as she delivered a top-notch performance which made the book even more eerie.
Clever, innovative, and a definite page turner!
I love a story that keeps me guessing right up to the very end and then turns the tables on a very unexpected ending.
The story of Daisy Darker and her family is one of unhappiness, rivalry, and a method for making all of its members miserable and filled with jealousy and possible revenge. The one shining time in their lives, seems to be their summer stays with Nana, a successful author of the notoriously famous The Secret of Daisy Darker, a children’s book. Nana is wealthy due mostly to its success, and invites her family once again to her home on an island in her falling down home, filled with memories.
Daisy has two older sisters, divorced parents, and she, poor thing, had been diagnosed with a heart problem that seemed to condemn her to a shortened life. Daisy seemed to be always sheltered and pushed into the background of an active life as she watched her sisters grow and have the fun of life. (although it often seemed an awkward life). Of course there was a young man who added that component that made the girls somewhat competitive and of course jealous of who delivered attention to him and he to them.
When they all meet for Nana’s eightieth birthday, things are tense as they come together somewhat unwillingly, and then the fireworks start, eventually finishing up with a death. (boom!) Then following in the tradition of Agatha’s Christie’s, And Then There Were none, one by one the family begins to get smaller and smaller.
For Jan and I this made for an exciting game of “Who dunnit”, guessing the who of the dunnit. Alice Freely managed to surprise us and offer up a wonderfully satisfying solution to the who and Jan and I had no idea were blown away. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time spent in the company of Daisy and her family. Kudos to Ms Freely for making our duo anxiously awaiting her idea of the murderer, and eliciting shock and awe from this eager team.