Moriarty’s second novel follows the Doughty clan as they fight to protect family secrets.
The Doughtys became famous more than 70 years ago when Connie and Rose Doughty found a baby on their island home, Scribbly Gum. The baby’s parents, Alice and Jack Munro, vanished, leaving few clues to their whereabouts. The circumstances around the abandonment created a national media sensation. Dubbed “The Baby Munro Mystery,” the case captivated Australians and turned sleepy Scribbly Gum Island into a tourist destination. Connie and Rose jumped at this chance to make money. They offered tours and concessions based on the Munro’s disappearance. Their schemes created a financial windfall for the Doughty family. As the business grew, Connie and Rose managed to keep the younger generations of Doughtys on a tight leash by controlling the purse strings. After setting up this bleak bit of history, Moriarty focuses on the island’s current residents. The Doughty grandchildren and great-grandchildren seem to have prospered in their pristine surroundings, but in reality they are a tortured bunch. The family’s troubles surface when the matriarch, Connie, dies. Infighting breaks out among the relatives, and the careful fabric that bound the family together for years starts to unravel. The comparatively sane and notably saucy Sophie Honeywell is thrown into this den of nutcases—Sophie had only met the dowager a handful of times, when she was dating one of the Scribbly Gum natives, but apparently Sophie made such an impression that Connie bequeathed to her her home. Eager to toss aside Sydney’s stale singles scene for the opportunity to live rent-free on the picturesque island, Sophie joins the fray. Moriarty (Three Wishes, 2004) presents far too many characters (five generations are accounted for), and none of them are likable. The old ladies are cantankerous and the younger folk are addle-brained. Sub-plots involve postpartum depression, gay relationships, mid-life crises and weight-control issues.
An overstuffed tale that can’t decide if it’s a mystery or a romance.