Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: Little Secrets

Little Secrets Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley for review.

Marin Machado has the kind of life that everybody on Instagram pretends to have.

Or at least she used to…

Marin is a very successful hair stylist whose clients include the rich and famous, and her husband Derek is a handsome self-made millionaire. Their life style is all glamorous comfort, and their fairy tale existence includes their four year old son Sebastian who they both adore. Unfortunately, it all falls apart in an instant when Marin loses track of Sebastian in a crowd of holiday shoppers, and the surveillance cameras make it clear that he was abducted by a man dressed as Santa Claus. Despite a highly publicized investigation there’s no clue as to what happened to the child after that.

Eighteen months later, and Marin is halfheartedly trying to pull her shattered life back together. Unwilling and unable to let go of the thin hope that Sebastian might still be alive she hires a private investigator to keep looking after the cops have shelved the case. In the course of digging into the backgrounds of everyone involved with Sebastian the PI discovers that Derek is having an affair with a young woman. With the last bit of her once wonderful life falling apart in front of her Marin turns to her old friend, the slightly shady Sal, for comfort. And Sal just so happens to know a guy who ‘fixes’ problems….

I read Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts after being impressed with her on several panels at Bouchercon last year, and two books in I’m completely sold. Her prose is compelling, and she has a knack for creating characters who do bad things yet you still find yourself rooting for them. In a book that has a lot of stuff going on she still manages to delve into Marin’s mindset as well as eventually giving us the mistress’s side of the story. While Hillier doesn’t shy away from digging into every parent’s worst nightmare she also keeps the rest of the plot at a constant boil so that it doesn't feel like misery porn.

What impressed me most about both books is that the premises almost sound like cheesy TV movies you’d see on Lifetime, but they don’t play out in familiar ways at all. Instead Hillier spins the plot into dark and twisted directions that would make a TV executive break out in a nervous rash.

I know that there’s a lot of people who just can’t handle missing child plots, and honestly, if that’s a problem for you then you might give this a pass because while there’s no graphic scenes involving children the book does hinge on delving into the hell of what a parent would go through. I also suppose that this is one where some might ding it for having ‘unlikable’ characters, but again, while they may be flawed I found them sympathetic and understandable.

Overall, it's an exceptionally tense and well done character based thriller that constantly surprised me. What more could you ask of a thriller?

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