When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister .
At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.
With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.
Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.
What I Loved
The gothically dark setting of The Family Plot both pulled me in and repulsed me simultaneously. Not surprisingly, the haunting Murder Mansion is the perfect backdrop for this gruesome and shocking tale. A setting like this is very pervasive – it seeps off the page and stays with you long past the final close of the novel.
I loved that there was only one narrator. It made it very easy for me to follow the skipping back and forth between the past and the present and provided an extra layer to the red herrings as Dahlia had to process new information with the reader. I found that my theories often went along with her current theory, so she guided me and made me part of her story.
The pacing stays relatively quick from start to finish, which is not typical for a gothic tale, but I enjoyed the faster pace. New finds and theories propel the rate as they come up frequently. There is always further information to process and new characters to focus on, as the reader is a team with Dahlia in the amateur detective work. I loved that solving the mystery didn’t initially come as a surprise, but then there is a twist that is more than shocking and an ending that is very intriguing in its unexpectedness. There are plenty of red herrings that, along with Dahlia’s thoughts, easily steer you off track and down lesser traveled trails
The Lighthouse family is fascinating. The wonders and discoveries are ongoing, from the mother naming her children after famous murder victims to a house with many secrets yet to be discovered. I can’t say that I particularly liked any of the characters, but I felt eternally entertained by them.
Reminds Me Of
The Family Plot reminded me not of another book or author but a Netflix movie or show. Its darkness and oddities would make n excellent Netflix original, and I found myself thinking of different shows that something about the story reminded me of while I read.
What I Wish
I initially had a few wishes, but when I consider how the story would have been different with them, I’m not sure they are good wishes. What would have helped, though, is an understanding of the mom and dad’s backstories. They are both central to the tale but are relative enigmas. I wouldn’t want so much that it ruined any revelations but enough that I could more easily understand how the story got there when the secrets were revealed.
To Read or Not to Read
If you are looking for an utterly fascinating gothic mystery, The Family Plot will give you that and much more.