Publisher: Atria Books
Date of publication: August 17th, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Format Read: Unedited ARC
Received: From Publisher
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.
My parents named me Dahlia, after the Black Dahlia – that actress whose body was cleaved in half, left in grass as sharp as scalpels, a permanent smiled sliced into her face – and when I first learned her story at for years old, I assumed a knife would one day carve me up.The Family Plot by Megan Collins
The Family Plot centers around an eccentric family, the Lighthouses. The parents named the children after famous victims of killings (Charles Lindbergh (Charlie), Sharon Tate (Tate), Andrew Borden (Andy), and The Black Dahlia (Dahlia)). They were kept isolated from the island community and were homeschooled on a….different….curriculum. It all consisted of true crimes, their victims, and their murderers. It was an unconventional upbringing.
The book starts with the death of Dahlia’s father, which brings her, Charlie, and Tate home. Andy has been missing for ten years. Dahlia, Andy’s twin, is hoping that he will show up. But that hope is dashed when the groundskeeper finds a body buried in what will be her father’s grave. That body ends up being Andy, and finding his body opens up Pandora’s box for the entire family.
Dahlia is determined to find out what happened to Andy. But her investigating uncovers a more profound and more disturbing mystery. That mystery is connected to a serial killer operating on the island. The more Dahlia digs, the more evidence she uncovers that Andy’s death is somehow connected to that serial killer. But how and why? What is revealed at the end of the book will shock even the most hardened person.
As I mentioned above, the main characters in The Family Plot are the Lighthouses. Charlie, Tate, Dahlia, and Andy with their mother, father (in spirit), ex-police chief, current police chief, Dahlia’s best friend, Andy’s girlfriend, and the groundskeeper being major secondary characters. Each one of these characters was written beautifully and had their voice that was heard.
Now, saying that I do want to touch on how messed up the Lighthouse family was. Each person had their issues. I will say that I thought Dahlia was the most “normal” person in the family. Tate had social problems. Charlie was an alcoholic (among other things), Andy had anger and cruelty issues (told through mini-flashbacks), and the mother, well, I am not going to say what they were because her problems are critical to the plotline. As the book goes on, the dysfunction in this family doesn’t lessen. Instead, it gets worse. I have never read a book where this happened, and I loved it.
As much as I loved the characters, I didn’t exactly like the lack of depth. The book is told in 1st person, through Dahlia’s eyes, but I felt that I didn’t get to know her. Same with Charlie, Andy, and Tate. This is the one time that I think that multiple POVs would have helped.
The plotline for The Family Plot was fast-moving and well written. But it did lag in the middle. While the lag wasn’t enough to derail the plotline, it was enough to bog it down. Plus, I felt that there was too much extra at that point in the book. Honestly, I didn’t care about the stalkerish ex-police chief or his son, the current police chief. I also didn’t care for Ruby’s smothering grandfather. I get why the author did but still. It was a distraction. I wanted to know more about Dahlia’s upbringing. I would have loved to read a snippet of a murder report.
The mystery angle of the book was on point. The author threw out so many red herrings that I second-guessed myself over who the serial killer was. I also couldn’t figure out who killed Andy and why.
I do want to touch on the true-crime angle. I thought it was well written and inventive for the author to have it used as part of a homeschooling curriculum. I am a true crime fanatic, and I recognized several of the names used in the book (aside from who the kids were named after). But, there were also names that I didn’t recognize, and I had to google.
I was shocked at the events that led to Andy being killed than who killed him. I can safely say that I didn’t see it coming. I had to put my Kindle down to process the revelation and then keep on reading. My only complaint is that the confession and the aftermath seemed a little rushed.
The end of the book didn’t sit right with me. Like I mentioned above, there was a huge reveal, and then it just tapered off. I was expecting another twist or something like that to happen. That drove me nuts!!! I would have loved to see something bigger happen than what did.
I loved reading The Family Plot. It was an engaging mystery/thriller that kept me guessing who did it until the end.
I would recommend The Family Plot to anyone over the age of 21. There are numerous mentions of true crime stories. There are reenactments of how people died, often gruesome. There are descriptions of a serial killer and how the victims were killed. There are scenes of extreme grief.