“Families are like fingerprints; no two are the same, and they tend to leave their mark.”
― Alice Feeney, Daisy Darker
Alice Feeney’s latest novel, Daisy Darker, is a dark and twisty locked-room mystery of a family gathered together for their grandmother’s birthday. It was deliciously messy and full of family drama. This is a contender for my favorite novel of 2022.
Daisy Darker was born with a broken heart. She wasn’t particularly wanted by either of her parents, but nevertheless she survived and was brought home to start her life with her parents and her two older sisters. Flash forward years and Daisy’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party on a tiny tidal island in her crumbling gothic house. The family has been avoiding each other for years, but a fortune teller foretold that Nana would die on her 80th birthday, so the family has assembled per her wishes.
As each member of the family arrives, they bring baggage, both physical and the secrets that they are all hiding from each other. The tidal island that Nana lives on means that the entire family will be shut off from the rest of the world for eight hours until the tide goes out. At midnight, a storm rages across the island. A scream pierces the night. Nana is found dead. An hour later, another family member is discovered dead. A deadly mystery has come to the island and the Darker family is left wondering who is responsible. Stuck on the island where someone is murdering the members of the Darker family one by one, they all must pull out their past secrets until they figure out the present murder mystery. They just have to make it until the tide goes out and they can escape the island. The deadly force on island may not let them leave alive though. Only time will tell.
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The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart is enjoying a new rebirth thanks to Otto Penzler and his American Mystery Classics series. Originally published in 1942, The Haunted Lady is one of a handful of reprinted mysteries hand selected by Penzler for a new generation of mystery readers. Even though the American Mystery Classic series includes a multitude of vintage authors, the reissued titles have a common theme in their beautifully modern covers that give the books a uniform look and feel. The cover of The Haunted Lady is exactly what drew me to the book in the first place. Known as “the American Agatha Christie”, Rinehart apparently lost popularity after her death in the 1950s. Penzler provides a short history of the author’s work at the beginning of the book. Featuring nurse Hilda Adams, The Haunted Lady is one of three books featuring Adams. Even though this book is the second in the series, picking up the book without reading the first in the series was seamless.
When we meet Hilda Adams, she has been recruited by Inspector Fuller to insert herself into the wealthy Fairbanks household to look after the elderly matriarch Eliza Fairbanks. Mrs. Fairbanks is convinced someone in her household is trying to kill her by initially feeding her arsenic and then by driving her mad with loose bats in her bedroom. Nurse Adams charge is to keep an eye on Mrs. Fairbanks and report back to Inspector Fuller. She meets a cast of characters in the Fairbanks family, and almost immediately more odd occurrences happen. After a murder is committed in a seemingly locked room under Nurse Adams watch, she and Inspector Fuller team up to uncover the baffling truth.
For fans of early 20th century mysteries and cozy mysteries, I recommend The Haunted Lady as well as other novels in the American Mystery Classics series. At the time, Mary Roberts Rinehart was a very popular mystery writer and although not well know today, her mysteries still hold the reader’s attention and keep them guessing as to the culprit. This series reintroduces vintage authors to an entirely new set of readers in today’s world.