Wednesday, August 11, 2021

ARC Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family Plot

Megan Collins
Publication: Atria Books (August 17, 2021)

Description: When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse remains haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has been unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house where the family soon makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of the Lighthouses react to the revelation in unsettling 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 facade, 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 Thoughts: Dahlia Lighthouse tells this story. It talks about her unusual childhood being raised by a mother who is obsessed with true crime and who homeschools her children with true crime at the heart of their curriculum. Her father is a distant figure who more or less ignores his daughters - Tate named for Sharon Tate and Dahlia named for the Black Dahlia. He interacts more with his sons - Charlie who is named for the infant Charles Lindbergh and Andy named for Andrew Borden. 

The older kids - Charlie and Tate - left home at eighteen leaving the younger two behind. Andy disappears on his sixteenth birthday leaving behind only a note and a grieving and bewildered sister. Dahlia stays an extra year in the hopes that Andy will come back and when she leaves at 19 she only moves a ferry ride away.

Dahlia spends seven years doing little but haunting the internet in the hopes of finding her missing brother. She is finally brought back to the island where she was raised when her father dies of a heart attack and Andy's bones are found in the father's burial plot. 

This is a very odd story and tightly focused on Dahlia's point-of-view. All of the family deals with their grief and their past in different ways. Their mother has decided that she needs to bake cookies. Really, that is pretty much all she does and with very little success given that she's never baked cookies before. Charlie, who is an actor, has decided to make their home into a memorial museum to convince the rest of the people on the island that they are just ordinary. 

Tate has dealt with her past by making dioramas depicting the serial murders of young women who also lived on the island and posting her projects on Instagram. She becomes obsessed with making a diorama of Andy's murder. 

Dahlia decides to investigate both Andy's murder and the serial killings but frequently gets sidetracked with her own grief and depression. She learns all sorts of secrets that change how she views her past and make her question everything she thought she knew about her family.

Fans who have an interest in true crime with find lots of famous crimes mentioned in this story. I was intrigued by the picture of a young woman raised in a very unusual situation and the way it shaped her life. 

Favorite Quote:
My entire life, I thought that Andy and I saved each other from loneliness, when really, we just built a different kind, one that felt like comfort, life safety, but in the end, was only a cocoon. And that seemed normal to me; it was just like Charlie and Tate.

But what I didn't understand, never paused for a moment to consider, is that cocoons are inherently temporary, too tight a space in which to grow.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.


  1. Sounds like a bit of an obsession focused read.
    Thanks for the review on an unusual story.

  2. Thanks for sharing what you thought.

    It was different, but I liked it.


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