Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain

The Blurb On The Back:

One family.

One night.

Ten years of lives.

It’s June 2008 and twenty-one-year old Adam Lattimer vanishes, presumed dead.  The strain of his disappearance breaks his already fragile family.

Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home.  His siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers.  The past is a tangled web of deceit.

And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for the events of ten years ago. 

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order SIX WICKED REASONS by Jo Spain from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

In June 2008, 21-year-old Adam Lattimer disappeared.  The fourth of six children born to a well-to-do family in Spanish Cove, Ireland, no one can think of a reason for his disappearance until it subsequently emerges that he was about to flunk his university exams.  His father, Frazer, hired a private detective to try and find him and his mother, Kathleen, never gave up hope that he was still alive, but no trace of Adam was ever found and Kathleen died from a heart attack a year later.

It’s now June 2018 and Adam has suddenly returned to the Lattimer house.  Frazer – who now shares the house with eldest child, Ellen (who teaches accountancy classes on-line) – summons his other children home so that they can hear what happened.  

James and Kate moved to Dublin.  James is a TV producer who had one hit series but has struggled for some time to repeat that success and is now desperately trying to put together the financing for a show that he thinks could return him to the big time.  Kate runs a high class hotel with her husband, Cheng, and rarely has anything to do with her siblings, preferring to keep herself and her husband away from her family after Frazer made a racist dig. 

Ryan lives in Italy.  A recovering drug addict, he tries to scrape together a living from maintaining a blog about his time in the country and writing a novel.  He is due a significant inheritance from a trust set up for him by his mother’s parents, but Frazer refuses to release it to him in case he uses it to relapse.  The youngest of the siblings Clíodhna (Clio) has been living in New York.  Like Ryan, she is due her share of the family trust but has so far refused to claim it, choosing instead to largely cut herself off from the rest of her family.

As the siblings return to Spanish Cove to quiz Adam on what happened and where he’s been, they learn that Frazer has his own news to share with the family.  He wants them to join him on a boat belonging to family friend Danny’s boat where has has planned a party.  9 people go out on the boat, but only 8 come back.

As Detective Downes quizzes the survivors on what happened that evening, he discovers a family filled with secrets and rivalries where everyone had a motive to kill the victim and everything seems to come back to Adam’s disappearance 10 years earlier …

Jo Spain’s standalone crime thriller is a tightly plotted affair that expertly shifts the action between the sibling narrators as they move from the night of the murder to the events of 10 years earlier.  The relationship between the siblings is convincing and the slow reveal of Frazer’s cruelties also works well but the resolution in the final quarter relies on a number of contrivances and left me wondering if one character deserved their fate.

One of the best things about this book is the way Spain shows the relationship between the Lattimer siblings, particularly the way that some are closer to each other than to others and how they all keep secrets from each other.  The dialogue between them rings true, as does the relationship they each have with their father, who despises Ryan and for whom Clio has always been the favourite.

Frazer is a slow reveal monster.  Petty, vindictive, manipulative and cruel, his emotions all revolve around himself and his needs and he knows exactly how to pick at the weaknesses of his children and make them work for him.  Some of the best scenes are between Frazer and James (who desperately needs his father to invest in his TV show) and between Frazer and Adam (who is most adapt at recognising what his father is like and knows how to work that to his advantage) but there is also a really chilling scene involving Frazer and the family dog that did send a shiver down my spine.  It’s the announcement that Frazer makes that appears to be the catalyst for the murder, but Spain’s skill as a writer is such that she also shows how it’s rooted in Adam’s disappearance 10 years earlier.

I really enjoyed how Spain keeps control of the narrative so that she swaps between the siblings to keep the story moving by revealing different aspects and events of their return to the family house in Spanish Cove.  Also good is the tight control she keeps over the time frame as she goes back to preceding events before moving forward to the aftermath of the murder.

That said, the final quarter of the book relies on contrivances to make aspects of the plot reveal work.  They didn’t spoil my enjoyment, but it does feel artificial and just stopped me from completely buying into it.  Likewise, Kathleen is seen in a more idealised way than Frazer in the book and although there are hints at what she was really like, the children (and in turn Spain) hold back from really rounding out whether she willingly turned a blind eye to what was going on and why she didn’t try to take back control.  I just needed a bit more of what was happening there and it’s a shame that Danny (who was a friend to both Frazer and Kathleen) isn’t used more to sketch her out more fully.  Finally, although you can see why one victim arguably deserved their fate, I was left wondering whether the punishment of another victim was really warranted given what we learn about them and it would have been interesting to have had some discussion of that.

Ultimately though, I did enjoy this book – it is well paced and kept me turning the pages and I cared enough about the characters to find out what happened to them.  This is the third novel I’ve read by Jo Spain (having previously read THE CONFESSION and BENEATH THE SURFACE) and she really knows how to craft an interesting story.  I will definitely check out what she writes next.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s