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.
Source: NetGalley and Atria Books Rating: 2½/5 stars
The Bottom Line: I will freely admit, I read this book in two marathon sessions but that isn’t necessarily indicative of how much I liked this book. In truth, I found this book to be somewhat perplexing. While I fully appreciate this is a fictional story, I guess I just need my fiction to be a bit more believable and/or realistic for my satisfaction. This is most prominently on display when the Lighthouse family backstory is fully revealed; I found myself thinking how absolutely unbelievable the whole family is and how, even for fiction, this isn’t working.
From start to finish, the Lighthouse family is, as one character puts it, “unnatural.” In fact, much to my great displeasure, this sentiment is often repeated throughout the book not only verbally, but also in the actions of the characters. With each new revelation, I found myself sinking further into disbelief but, like a train wreck, I couldn’t stop watching either. Though the characters are meant to be deep and terribly disturbed, they come off more as immature adults who won’t deal with their issues. I have trouble with characters who refuse to deal with their issues which means I couldn’t ever find a character in this book to root for, though the plot would suggest rooting for the entire Lighthouse family. I don’t feel a reader should ever walk away from a book more confused than when they started the book and that’s what happened here. I finished this book with a deep sense of dissatisfaction and wonder at what I’d just read. I admit, I couldn’t stop reading, but I don’t think that inability to stop was for the right reasons.