Book Review / Darby Kane / Reviews with Spoilers

Darby Kane | The Engagement Party

The Book: 

The Engagement Party by Darby Kane
Published December 5, 2023 by Avon
Date read: July 14, 2023

The Characters: 

Mitch, Sierra, Alex, Cassie, Will and Ruthie

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

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The Plot (from Goodreads):

Emily Hunt went missing from her affluent liberal arts school on graduation weekend. Her body was found floating in a river, and a quiet loner who most people on campus really didn’t know committed suicide. A tenuous link—one text—bound the two dead students together and was enough for law enforcement to close the case. But they got it wrong and now someone is determined to set it right.

Twelve years later, college friends gather to celebrate an engagement over a long overdue getaway on a swanky private island in Maine—with only one way in and one way out. Sierra Prescott, invited as a guest and unconnected to past events, is the only person who soon senses not all is what it seems.

The tension in the air is ignited when they find a dead man in the trunk of a car with a note: time to tell the truth. And things only get worse. As a torrential storm strands them together, the group’s buried stories begin to surface and secrets are bartered. To survive this deadly party, they’ll need to stop a killer before they become prey.

How did The Engagement Party end?

Click here for book spoilers for The Engagement Party
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The Engagement Party, I suggest you turn back now.

The Reveal:

Mitch, Will, Alex, and Cassie were friends in college, along with Emily and Jake. Emily died tragically on the night of their graduation. Another student Brendan was accused of her death and killed himself, but there were questions as to whether he was actually responsible. The friend group knew something they were keeping secret.

When the friends arrive on the island, things go wrong almost immediately. They find a car in the garage, running, despite there being no way to get a car onto the island at high tide. There’s a body in the trunk. The body belongs to Tyler, Mitch’s childhood friend. Mitch’s mother had groomed Tyler and had a sexual relationship with him, and then convinced Tyler to help her kill Mitch’s dad.

A police officer shows up to check on the group (?) but doesn’t investigate anything despite the shocked atmosphere despite just having found the body. Why in the world does no one tell the cop there’s a body! Mitch had a pretty solid alibi.

Next all the power goes out on the island and they discover their cells have been jammed. There’s a terrible storm coming–convenient, as Cassie would say.

They go to the shed to look for a generator and find another body there. This time it’s Jake, the sixth member of the friend group, who didn’t want anything to do with the rest of them after Emily died. The cop, Dylan, returns, and they’re finally going to get his help, but it turns out he’s not a cop but the killer. He makes them all put on zip ties and says he’s the best friend of Brendan, the boy accused of Emily’s murder. He knows Brendan didn’t kill her, and he wants the truth. Ruthie has a gun, but it’s hidden under her long skirt (great planning) so she can’t use it. It comes out that Ruthie and Dylan know each other, but Ruthie’s POV insists they weren’t working together.

Ruthie says she was Emily’s best friend from high school, the one Emily had planned to go to Amherst with.

Eventually Will admits to accidentally killing Brendan, so Dylan kills him. Sierra hits Dylan with a fire poker and he passes out. Alex and Cassie escape in Dylan’s boat, leaving the others stranded. The others try to escape via rowboat, Mitch drowns Dylan, and they catch up to Alex and Cassie to get the true story. Alex believed Mitch killed Emily, but Mitch wasn’t there that night. Will had come on to Emily and she had fallen and hit her head. The group thought she was dead, so Cassie decided to hide the body rather than get help. Emily had been alive when Cassie put her in the water and had fought back, so Cassie was the killer.

The guys (Alex, Will, and Jake) had tracked Brendan down to get a confession out of him. Brendan fell off the bridge trying to escape them, rather than killing himself.

All that was well and good if not somewhat predictable, so then the author decides to throw some twists at us. Dylan Richter, Brendan’s best friend had actually been a girl. Ruthie was really Dylan, and Dylan the cop was just some random guy that Ruthie/Dylan met in her quest for revenge. Why was the man such a crazed killer if he wasn’t even involved?? I didn’t think this last bit was necessary and made things a bit more confusing.

The Review: 

I couldn’t pass up this title when I saw it on Netgalley–I read it just two weeks before my own engagement party, which I thought was fitting in a funny way. Hopefully no one dies at mine! I enjoy the “college friends with a big secret” trope. The Engagement Party is your standard “cut off on an island, bad weather looming, a hidden dead body, phones useless, no way to call for help” novel, by its own admission towards the beginning of the story.

I was hooked and it was very easy to read, but the connections were all pretty convoluted.

A few things were weird to me about this book, which I’ll note since it’s so far before pub day. First, there was no getting-to-know-the-characters scene at the beginning of the engagement party. Bad things started happening pretty much as soon as the group got to the island. We didn’t need much, but a celebratory scene to get to know the characters would have made some sense. Second, I felt like the bit about Mitch’s childhood was very abruptly thrown in there and then glossed over. No spoilers, but it was a pretty shocking reveal and didn’t seem to get the time it deserved.

Overall I was interested enough to read the book very quickly, but didn’t love it or feel like it really stands out in any way. I’ve got a few more thoughts tucked into the spoiler recap on my blog as well.

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