Six Wicked Reasons: Jo Spain returns with a prodigal son, a dysfunctional family and a mysterious death

The little village of Spanish Cove is one of the most attractive holiday resorts in south Co Wexford, but in 2008 it made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Adam Lattimer, the 21-year-old eldest son of Spanish Cove’s most prominent and wealthy family, vanishes without trace. Despite extensive searches, no trace of him was ever found, and he is assumed to be dead.

His disappearance breaks his already fragile family, his mother Kathleen dying in tragic circumstances within 12 months and, as they grow over the years, four of the five surviving siblings scatter to far flung places. His Scottish father, 61-year-old Frazer, a stern and judgemental man, remains in the family home with one of his daughters, Ellen.

Ten years later, almost to the day, Adam, without any warning, turns up at the family home very much alive and well. His astonished father welcomes the prodigal son with open arms – he might not have been so welcoming had Adam not quickly informed him that he is now a successful businessman and independently wealthy – and summons Adam’s brothers and sisters back to Co Wexford for a family reunion which is to culminate in a celebratory party in the bay on board his friend Danny’s luxury yacht. One by one, with considerable reluctance, the four come home to Spanish Cove to deal with the still open wounds of the past.

The youngest child, Clio, living an undocumented life in New York, must leave America knowing she can never return. Ryan, at 28, a recovering addict now living in the beautiful town of Limone on Lake Garda in Italy, is a struggling writer content to do odd jobs to keep body and soul together until he gets his share of the family fortune when his father passes. James, a former wunderkind independent film producer, is drowning financially while desperately trying to finance his latest project, and Kate, a wealthy hotelier with a five-star property in Dublin, has little desire to return home to her xenophobic father with her Chinese husband in tow.

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The family reunion is an unmitigated disaster. As Adam tries to connect with his siblings, it is obvious that each of them has good reason to be hurt and angry by the impact his mysterious disappearance has had on their lives, and there are undercurrents of deceit and secrecy in each of their lives that threaten to bubble to the surface. And Frazer, who has always been curiously indifferent to the feelings and well-being of his offspring, has some unwelcome news of his own to impart and is totally impervious to his children’s angry reaction.

It is not surprising, then, that it is not the fatted calf that is killed on Adam’s return. When Frazer’s body is found floating in the harbour with a head injury, local Detective Sergeant Rob Downes, Clio Lattimer’s first boyfriend, must work out whether his death was an accident or murder, and if the latter, which of the siblings committed it. Each of them, he discovers as he quizzes them in the immediate aftermath of the death, had ample reason and a compelling motive to wish Frazer dead.

Six Wicked Reasons is a cleverly constructed and thoroughly immersive thriller that seamlessly links past with present through the individual voices of the six siblings. Each presents a picture of a tragically dysfunctional family as they add layer upon layer to the portrait of a selfish, inflexible and autocratic man who, for all his posturing of being a loving, caring and supportive father and husband, demands that all bend to his will.

Jo Spain is astonishingly prolific; her first Inspector Tom Reynolds mystery, With Our Blessing, was published in 2015 and there are now five of them, as well as two standalone crime novels, The Confession and Dirty Little Secrets. In Six Wicked Reasons she surpasses all that has gone before.

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