Ill winds blow in the British seaside town of Bournemouth as the question is asked: what really happened to Coco? The three-year-old daughter of savvy and self-important businessman Sean Jackson goes missing on a seaside holiday, and one wonders which is the most likely scenario, tragic circumstance or events more sinister? My mind was made up and then revised again several times over as I devoured this book.
Enthralling, riveting and shocking to the very last page, the new book by Alex Marwood is a masterfully written crime drama. Truths are carefully withheld from the reader, just at arm’s length, just beyond deciphering, as pacing goes from calm to frenetic and back again. While the book might suggest that “good old family secrets (are) always best kept to themselves”, many are aired as the Jacksons come together again, twelve years after Coco went missing. Secrets kept for reasons of tortuous guilt and shame, secrets kept to save face, secrets of self-preservation.
As different perspectives are revealed, I was compelled to keep on wading through the detritus of family drama and deceit, as told through the eyes of both Sean Jackson and his estranged daughter Milly, whose parallel stories take place twelve years apart, both during times of personal upheaval.
Behind a cool façade, Sean leaves a personal trail of destruction, a collection of scorned ex-wives and daughters with a point to prove, while Milly’s personal deliberations and realisations as she comes to terms with her relationship with her father are as moving as they are surprising.
As I explore this niche of ‘grip lit’ books, psychological thrillers aimed at women that surfaced long before ‘Gone Girl’, many interesting authors are turning up, and Marwood is light years ahead of some of the other books I have read in the same genre. Her voice brings to mind the engrossing, quintessentially British tone of thrillers such as ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and the much celebrated ‘The Girl on The Train’ by Paula Hawkins.
Just like Alex Marwood’s other titles ‘The Wicked Girls’ and ‘The Killer Next Door’, this book is a fascinating female-driven crime drama, with murky characters and shocks aplenty. I can’t put a finger on which is my favourite of the three Marwood books I have read, but this new saga does not disappoint. In fact, as I write this, I realise I am still stewing over the final act, and that its grating conclusion will be ringing in my ears for a while to come.