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Q&A with Darby Kane - The Engagement Party

By Saffron Coutts

We are thrilled to welcome Darby Kane to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, The Engagement Party, released on the 5th December 2023.

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 died by 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. 

I have to say it has been a pleasure reading The Engagement Party, I am usually the first to predict how a mystery will end but your book kept me guessing right until the end. For that I say, brava! Every twist and turn kept me on the edge of my seat so much so that I let out a little squeal of distress when I found no more pages to be read (that cliffhanger was cruel!)

Thank you!  That’s great to hear. I don’t think of the ending as a cliffhanger, but I did want it to be an unexpected twist. I hope it surprised you.

An interesting detail I noticed was that the character perspectives we were given were restricted to Sierra, Ruthie and Alex. What made you pick these specific characters to narrate through?

I think of the three perspectives as: the insider, (Alex) the outsider (Sierra), and the catalyst (Ruthie, the bride-to-be). That gave me three ways to look at the murder twelve years ago and all the secrets that built up around it and at the danger stalking them on the island now. All the characters have secrets, so when figuring out who could deliver the story and how to do that, I had to think about what I wanted the reader to know and when. That juggling turned out to be challenging. Sierra was especially fun to write because I think of her as the reasonable, “what’s wrong with you, we need to leave this island now!” character. I get her.

I loved that we got taken out of the story during the ‘Book Notes’ from a perspective that was kept secret until the very end. What was the thought process behind including this?

Thank you! I debated about the best way to write this and played with flashbacks and dual timelines—then and now. Neither gave me exactly what I wanted. I landed on the “Book Notes” concept. It allowed me to deliver needed information about the murder years ago on college graduation weekend and tie together the how and why behind all the danger now...I know that’s vague but I’m trying to avoid spoilers!

Can we talk about Mitch and Sierra!? I have never wanted to scream at a book so much to say "YOU OBVIOUSLY LIKE EACH OTHER DO SOMETHING!!!”. I adored the way they could read each other without having to utter a word. Without Sierra, how different do you think Mitch’s life would have been?

I love them. I wanted the reader to have the exact reaction you did. Everyone knows but them!  Thanks to Mitch’s backstory and all the unresolved trauma associated with his parents, he’s closed off. He hides his discomfort and fears behind a wall of sarcasm. His ability to trust, love, and find “normal” is questionable. Without Sierra, I think he would stay in that stunted emotional place. The whole unspoken love-between-friends idea drives a big part of the story. Loving each other made the danger more intense. For the first time, Mitch had something to lose and that was Sierra.  A lot of his decisions are driven by his fear of losing her or seeing her hurt.


Were there any inspirations behind your novel, whether that be film, tv, novels or even poetry?

There were a few things. First, I love locked-room mysteries. Trap together people who know each other or have a shared past and put them in an isolated location then unleash their secrets and increase the danger and I am a happy reader.  One book that does this well is And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. That book inspires a lot of thriller writers and was an inspiration for The Engagement Party.

I also watch a lot of true crime documentaries and television shows, like Dateline, and I’m not alone. Select cases turn into news and social media sensations. Internet sleuths and podcasters have brought a lot of attention to those cases and, more than once, have helped to find answers. That is a positive side of our collective true crime obsession. But that interest can go too far and turn peoples’ real pain into entertainment, and the book touches on that.

The last thing is sort of philosophical because it deals with the concept of redemption. Can one bad thing a person does wipe out a lifetime of good? Are we defined by our worst decision? This book let me play with those questions. The characters had very different answers, which made writing them interesting.

What was the research like for the book? Were there any peculiar things that came up during it?

Terrible things happen in beautiful places, so my thrillers are set in charming and enviable places to live. Finding the right setting requires a lot of pre-writing research. I can’t start the book until I know where it’s happening. I look at real estate listings, photos, and reviews of areas. It’s very enjoyable research.

This book is set in Maine, a state I visited once decades ago. Writing this gave me an excuse to take a trip to coastal Maine in fall 2022. The landscape was stunning. The weather was moody, just like in the book. I also got to inspect a floating dock up close and then worked that into the plot.

As a former trial attorney, I am sure you’re used to dealing with such complex details. Nevertheless, how did you go about plotting the twisty narrative out?

Thank goodness for my office whiteboard and notebooks. I use both to sketch out three areas: things I know, things at least one of the characters know, and things the readers know but the characters don’t. After I play with those for a while and figure out what to disclose and when, I start writing and see where the first three chapters take me.

As mentioned before, the cliffhanger killed me! Can we expect a sequel anytime soon, or is there anything else in the works at the moment!?

I consider this a standalone thriller. You know who did what and why at the end. Where the characters go from there is something I leave up to the readers’ imaginations. I have a few theories. I bet you do, too.

Finally, where can people purchase their own copy of The Engagement Party?

It’s at all the usual bookstores, including independent bookstores, Amazon, Walmart, and Target. The Engagement Party is out in hardcover, trade paperback, audio, and ebook, so you can find it no matter what your format preference is. If it helps, the buy links and an excerpt are on my website:

Darby Kane is a former trial attorney and #1 international bestseller of domestic suspense. Her debut book, Pretty Little Wife, was featured in numerous venues, including Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, Popsugar, Refinery29, Goodreads, The Skimm, and Huffington Post. A native of Pennsylvania, Darby now lives in California and runs from the cold.

When she’s not writing suspense, she can be found watching suspense, thrillers, and mysteries. You can find out more at


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