Thriller Thursday: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 21, 2020)
Length: 352 pages
When it comes to writing dark and twisted thrillers, Jennifer Hillier is scarily good at what she does. I learned that first with Jar of Hearts, and Little Secrets has only reinforced that belief. If you’re looking for a compulsive read to get lost in, the kind of book that makes you resurface after a full day of reading, wondering, “Damn, where has the time gone?” then this one’s for you—just mind that it can get a little distressing and emotionally intense…especially if you are a parent.
The worst day of Marin’s life came just before Christmas. She and her young son Sebastien were shopping at Seattle’s Pike Place Market when she let her attention slip just for one moment, and the next thing she knew, her 4-year-old was gone. Hours later, detectives showed Marin and her husband Derek the footage from a security camera which captured their son being led away by a man dressed in a Santa suit, the only promising lead they had. For months afterward, the investigation went nowhere, forcing the police to give up on the search.
But more than a year after Sebastien’s disappearance, Marin has not given up her own search. Her once perfect life may now be in shambles following a suicide attempt, hours of therapy and support group sessions, as well as a growing distance between herself and her husband, but Marin just needs to know someone is out there still looking for her boy. So she hires a private investigator, who gets back to her almost right away with new information—except it is not about Sebastien, but Derek. It appears that for the last six months, Marin’s husband has been having an affair. Thanks to social media, it doesn’t take long to find out everything about his mistress, a 24-year-old art student named Kenzie Li.
Angry and humiliated, Marin finds a new target for all the suffering she has endured for the last year and a half, channeling it all into her hatred for the woman who is destroying her marriage. For support, Marin turns to Sal, her best friend and former flame with a checkered past. What she seeks isn’t advice or words of comfort, however, but rather Sal’s connections to his old prison friends who can fix certain…problems.
You just never know what you’re going to get with this author’s books. Are we going to have a happy ending, or is this going to turn out badly for everyone? You won’t find out unless you keep reading, and that’s why Little Secrets was so hard to put down. With a flip of switch, we go from a story about a missing child and a mother’s pain to one about a lurid affair and the fury and vengeance of a wife betrayed. And yet, both these threads worked well in tandem, especially once Hillier dropped a surprise on us in the form of Kenzie Li’s POV, allowing readers a look through the eyes of “the other woman.”
Eventually, everything comes together in this shocker of a twist ending, which I confess I failed to connect the dots and predict until close to the end. More on this I will not say because that will just spoil the fun, but do be prepared to go through a rollercoaster of emotions as we shift back and forth between Marin and Kenzie’s perspectives. There will be rage, sympathy, disgust, pity, horror and a whole lot more as past relationships and secrets are revealed about each woman.
Needless to say, at times Marin’s chapters were unbearably difficult and heartrending to read, due to the fact she is living a parent’s worst nightmare, with the descriptions of her guilt and grief over losing Sebastien hitting me over and over like a flurry of gut punches. It made even some of her more questionable decisions and reactions believable, if not always agreeable. Reading through Kenzie’s chapters, on the other hand, is an even more tumultuous ride as the mystery of her character begins the moment she appears. Who is Kenzie Li? Is she just a young and naïve college student, duped by the charms of a rich older man? Or were Marin’s initial instincts about her correct, that there has got to be something more to the young woman’s designs on Derek?
Bottom line, this is one psychological thriller you won’t want to miss. Packed with suspenseful moments and heart-stopping twists, Little Secrets is an addictive novel of diabolical motives and mind games that will keep you guessing. Jennifer Hillier has become one of my must-read authors.