Editor's Rating

Had me hooked, once again!


They said Coco went missing in the night, they lied…

Alex Maywood’s gentle sigh of an entrance into the elite crime writer novelist’s circle was completely at odds with the contents of her first novel, possibly because she simply claimed a place that was hers all along, a seat reserved for Gritty Crime Writer No.1

Wicked Girls alerted me to Alex’s existence, and it left me with emotional scars I still indulge in stroking today. Of course, I adore other crime writers such as Karen Rose, Lisa Gardner and Luke Delaney but this, this writing, this honesty, was something completely new.

I wasn’t entirely sure at the time if I felt comfortable with Alex’s incredible ability to open old wounds and stir a cauldron full of memories that seemed happily buried, even if she seemed to do this unwittingly.

Therein lies the rub. If you’re expecting an easy, guilt free ride with The Darkest Secret, think again. Just like Wicked Girls, if you grew up before the age of the internet, The Darkest Secret will reveal memories, scents, smells, thoughts and feelings you completely forgot you owned.

Alex has a unique ability to delve deep into the psyche of the cruellest minds and find something we can all identify with, which generally leaves us with questions about our own morality, our own indifference and our own humanity. Her knack for relaying the innocence of a childhood conversation or action can take you back to your own five year old body, twelve year old self, where you remember the conflict, the battle between good and evil in your head.

Once you’ve regressed, you’ll find yourself on a journey with Alex’s protagonists, constantly grateful that you chose the path in life that you did, while waking up sweating when nightmares invade, taunting you with the hell that could have been, if only you’d given in to the demons.

The Wicked Girls did all of this for me and more, I wasn’t one of the murderers, I was the small annoying little sister and cousin who kids couldn’t wait to get rid of. I identified with that novel more than I have in my life and so it was a surprise when, in The Darkest Secret, Alex’s characters stepped up a social class.

Yes, it’s time to review the book itself.

What is it with parents of children, particularly neurotic ones like myself, that find some degree of enjoyment from reading novels that feed our worst nightmares, alongside the constant devastating scenarios that play in our head? Maybe we think that by close connection, the law of averages mean it won’t happen to us if we read of it happening to someone else. Who knows?

Alex Succeeds Where JK Rowling Fell

It’s a controversial statement but back in 2013 I wrote a review of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for Nerditorial Magazine. In that review I pondered on JK’s mental health alongside the characteristics and guile of her current entourage. JK explored the human psych so deeply and profoundly in that novel that she forgot to include one single likeable character we could happily identify with, thus rendering the story a miss with the general public.

Alex meanwhile, seems to find likeable traits in the evilest of minds while allowing her own protagonist to enjoy the luxury of fallibility and human error. With this empathy with her characters and extraordinary insight into the human ego she brings us characters we love to hate alongside some we champion throughout.

She makes us consider our own judgements, our own actions and our own reactions in the same situations and sets off uncomfortable solo debates in our heads. This talent is rarely witnessed by avid readers of the crime genre as other writers seem to stop short before dredging up the murky, mucky moral dregs. {Unless detailing the single serial killer or psychopath that is socially inept}

*The Darkest Secret also throws headline news into the spotlight and expertly unravels a new theory that has been manipulated from the eyes of the public with the help of some cunning marketing and communications. It’s a theory an ex-boyfriend of mine explored when interviewing a famous couple live and one which he later almost lost his career over as he should have kept his mouth shut.

Working in the media, this exploration of the other side, behind the headlines, left me impressed and revealed yet another of Alex’s talents for keen observance.

From every angle, every viewpoint, every class and every psyche this book is a must read to ignite smouldering fires and to question ourselves.

As you accompany each character through their torment you’ll constantly ask, “Would I have done anything different myself?”

TL:DR: Buy it now, lock the doors and devour in one sitting. Cake and coffee optional.

*This paragraph may be removed later depending on if I can get away with it or not!