Quercus | 2020 (16 January) | 426p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
It is June 2018 and five Lattimer siblings are called back to Spanish Cove, to their family home on the most beautiful and remote section of Ireland’s coast. They reluctantly return from all parts of the globe for a very special reason – to greet the sixth sibling, Adam, who, ten years before, disappeared without trace, presumed dead. The shock of losing Adam destroyed his mother and she died soon afterwards. But now he is back with a story to tell. Their father arranges a party aboard a boat to celebrate the return of the prodigal son. But the following morning,when the boat returned to shore, not everyone was aboard. One of the family was swept overboard, others jumped in to rescue him. But when the body is hauled ashore, local police officer Detective Downes soon learns that the man was dead before he hit the water. Someone on the boat is a murderer. It’s up to Downes to investigate who and why before they strike again.
I loved the premise of Six Wicked Reasons, Jo Spain’s latest stand alone thriller, as soon as I heard about it and read it at once. I adored Dirty Little Secrets, which likewise has an irresistible premise involving a small group of people (aka suspects) in an evocative setting with more secrets than is good for them. It’s a winning formula and Jo Spain excels at it.
The Irish coastal setting of Spanish Cove, with the large house on the cliff, so full of memories, is gorgeous and such a contrast to the other places in which the siblings have found themselves, with the exception of Ellen who stayed behind to keep the house with her father. The others have all grown into very different people from the children they once were but the old alliances that they made are still there. The petty squabbles flare up once more. And then there’s the father. With a family this size, there is bound to be rivalry and envy. It’s fascinating watching this family try to get along, to understand why Adam left them for so long, and knowing that the answers lie in the past.
Moving between the past and the present, this novel immerses the reader in the history of this dysfunctional family. The narrative moves between the family members, while also, and this makes the books especially effective, providing the point of view of the detective who has this mess to untangle. None of the family members are particularly likeable. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I didn’t like any of them. But I really liked Detective Downes and it’s he who, in a strange way, holds it all together.
The story is compelling, twisty and involving. The short chapters and the lively structure make this a very difficult book to put down and I powered through it. All the time we really want to know why Adam left his family ten years before and why he’s come back now. This central mystery is backed up by so many more, including the mystery of the identity of the murderer, but there are far more than that. Six Wicked Reasons is thoroughly entertaining, it certainly kept me guessing and it is all reinforced by such a strong and enticing sense of place. I have yet to read any of Jo Spain’s Inspector Tom Reynolds novels, a state of affairs I shall definitely correct, but I can thoroughly recommend her stand alone thrillers and I can’t wait to read the next.