Name that book: Orphan with a birthmark, evil aunt
December 29, 2014 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Do you remember the book my mother read a decade or two ago? It was a romance and/or mystery featuring an orphan with a birthmark on her face, raised by her uncle (who turns out to be her father) and her controlling aunt (who turns out to have murdered her parents, and later her boyfriend and others with poisoned tea) as she investigates her own past. My mother probably checked it out from the public library in the mid-to-late nineties, but on the outside edge, could have been between 1990 and 2004.

The story mostly takes place during the college years of the main protagonist, as she learns the sordid truth about her own past. Some details my mother remembers (though I may have gotten causality a little mixed up):
  • The protagonist has a prominent birthmark on her face, and always felt left out and self-conscious, but was treated kindly by her uncle.
  • We later learn that her uncle had been having an affair with her mother, and was actually her father.
  • Her parents were killed in an apparent murder-suicide when she was young, she went to live with her uncle (biological father) and his then girlfriend, who shortly thereafter became her aunt. Prior to her parents death, her uncle had been trying to convince her father (his brother) and her mother to move with him somewhere down south. The girlfriend murdered her parents to prevent this.
  • Her uncle and aunt have a son who is younger, he is very much under the thumb of his mother.
  • Her somewhat bratty/disobedient older sister was sent away to some institution by the aunt some time after her parents death. She was lead to believe that her sister was crazy or evil, but later learns that her sister was aware of the affair, and her aunt was covering it up or otherwise removing the older sister to maintain control of the younger sister.
  • There's some plot point about the older sister attempting to send christmas gifts, but being thwarted by the aunt.
  • Her aunt disapproves of her boyfriend, and sometime after she graduates from college, he dies from a poisoned cup of tea.
  • She later finds her sister, realizes she isn't crazy/evil, and the two (half-)sisters live together. They bug their own house, and hear the uncle, aunt and son breaking in and snooping around.
  • While investigating the past with her sister, just prior to an appointment with someone employed at the institution her sister had been in, the employee dies of an apparent heart attack (caused by poisoned tea).
  • The uncle speaks with an elderly neighbor of the parents, learns that his wife was present at the house on the day of the murder-suicide, and begins to be suspicious as well.
  • The younger sister (the protagonist) is an author, and writes a book [may possibly be a memoir?]. There is a celebration related to the release of the book; the younger sister is self-conscious about her birthmark, the older sister does some sort of publicity event in lieu of the younger sister.
  • The aunt is displeased with the book or the publicity it brings, and attempts to murder one or both of the sisters. Somehow, a ravine is involved.
  • The sisters learn that the ashes of their parents are hidden in the aunt's attic, they break in to their aunts house to attempt to reclaim them.
Somehow, despite (or perhaps because of) this plethora of information, I've been unable to come up with the book, and I'm hoping the hive-mind can help.
posted by yuwtze to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it The Guest List?
posted by the webmistress at 8:17 PM on December 29, 2014


That has got to be it! Looks like a few plot points got a bit transformed in the retelling, but there are too many similarities for it to be anything else.
posted by yuwtze at 8:50 PM on December 29, 2014


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