The Family Plot
About a morbid and death-obsessed family who become targets of murder themselves and the only straight woman member of the group, who tries to figure out who murdered her twin brother, if I had to describe The Family Plot in a catchy blurb, I’d call it The Addams Family Goes Wild.
Our heroine is named Dahlia Lighthouse – after the Black Dahlia, we’re informed – which sets a morbid tone for the book. It’s perhaps not surprising thather siblings are named in a similar fashion – Charlie (after the Lindburgh baby, not Manson), Tate (as in Sharon) and Andy (after, of all people, the father of Lizzie Borden). See? It’s like The Addams Family if Gomez and Morticia had a less twisted sense of humor.
The Lighthouse children were raised together on a secluded island named Blackburn, which is known for just one thing – its serial killer, who murdered seven over a decade’s span. The siblings understandably scattered in adulthood, with Dahlia running the furthest. Of all of them, her twin brother Andy is the one she was closest to and the one Dahlia misses the most, but he disappeared without a trace ten years ago, presumed to have run away. Dahlia has spent all of her time trying to find Andy, and when she comes home to attend her father’s funeral, they’re all horrified to discover a body – revealed to be Andy’s – in what was supposed to be her father’s plot with an axe wound right in his head.
Everyone Dahlia’s strange little family becomes a suspect. Her mother – cheerfully chipper, in spite of the fact that she tried to protect her kids from the outside world by reenacting famous murders to teach them lessons and homeschooled them in isolation – suffers under the burden of her own mother’s unsolved death. Charlie, who has dedicated himself to the Lighthouse family’s memory by creating the Lighthouse Memorial Museum to enshrine their parent’s activities, and Tate, who makes and sells dioramas of famous crime scenes. Who slaughtered who?
The Family Plot’s biggest sin is that it’s just okay, but it has such an interesting premise that I was utterly frustrated with the fact that it didn’t add much more juice to its plot than what we get in the first couple of chapters. The behavior of the characters tipped me off as to who the red herring was early on, and I didn’t quite predict the true culprit, which was enough to bump the grade up a little, but I really wanted more – more plot, more everything.
It’s a shame because I really liked Dahlia as a narrator – the woman who wants to escape the weird of her family but cannot quite do so. Her family is generally a bunch of good but damaged people who are genuinely horrified when real murder is visited upon their doorstep. They’re the right kind of spooky and creepy, but the plot underwhelms and disservices them. I needed far more twists than I got.
The Family Plot is going to please the morbid-loving among us instead of those looking for some creepiness. It could’ve used a little more Ookyness too, but not all of us can be Lurch.