Title:The Family Plot
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books
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.
The Family Plot is an atmospheric psychological thriller perfect for fans of true crime and gothic mysteries. The Lighthouses live in a small town where the gossip mill never stops, and their strange habits never cease to fuel it. The entire family is obsessed with true crime. They have a shrine dedicated to the victims of infamous true crime cases. The children were homeschooled, but their education didn’t follow the state-sanctioned curriculum, and they spent most of their time learning about murder and death.
The book opens when Dahlia (named after the Black Dahlia), returns home following her father’s sudden death. It’s her first time back in ten years. When she was a teenager, her twin brother went missing. He was presumed to be a runaway, and she’s never stopped looking for him.
This book is rife with mystery and there are many twists in the plot. It’s clear the author is a murderino (not just because of the book’s dedication), as a lot of the book has a focus on the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of true crimes. Those of us who are familiar with the big cases will recognize a lot of the names that get thrown around, both in the dialogue and in the narrative.
This book is dreary and angsty in tone. It’s definitely not a light read, and the tone fits the cover and the subject matter quite perfectly. Dahlia’s entire family is quite intriguing and peculiar, adn there’s a melancholic tone to all of her interactions with them.
While I adored Collins’ writing style and the tone and story were impeccable, I wasn’t particularly crazy about the protagonist. Dahlia was a little two-dimensional. It’s been ten years since she left home, but not much has happened in the interim. Seh hasn’t really found herself–which I suppose that in itself is quite telling–but it still made her feel like a teenaged character, despite being twenty-six. She’s a little selfish and short-sighted. She’s naive, despite the singular focus of her education. Since the book is told from her point of view, we don’t get to dig as deeply into her siblings, who I found much more intriguing. I loved the way both her brother, Charlie, and her sister, Tate, dealt with their grief in unique and unsettling ways. I would definitely read a book from Tate’s point of view!
I recommend this book to lovers of atmospheric, slow-paced, yet immersive psychological thrillers that have a strong family bent.
*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*
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