Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review: One Little Secret

By Jami Deise

A book that is described as a beach read usually features romance and friendship during a vacation at the beach. It’s a light, frothy piece of fun that goes well with the sun, sand, and waves that the reader herself is also enjoying. But with thrillers taking over the lists of “best summer reads,” many of them should be categorized as beach reads as well. Cate Holahan’s latest, One Little Secret, is definitely the kind of thriller you want to read at the beach… especially if that beach is at the end of Long Island.

If Liane Moriarty and Agatha Christie had a book baby, One Little Secret would be the result. Holahan’s Hercule Poirot is Hamptons police detective Gabby Watkins, recently promoted and trying to prove herself while raising a teenage daughter in a biracial marriage to her high-school sweetheart. Smart, hard-working, devoted to her family and to justice, Gabby is a compelling protagonist, and I would have been happy had the book been written solely from her point-of-view.

The Liane Moriarty side of the book is the three couples who come to town to share a beach house. Neighbors, the six aren’t exactly friends; Susan put together the week-long vacation to try to make friends in her new community. A stay-at-home mom homeschooling a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder, she feels isolated and craves adult friendship. She wasn’t expecting to host a murder, but after a night where each couple tears each other apart, she and her husband Nadal find the body of Rachel--a lawyer whose husband Ben stays home with their kids--washed up on the beach. It’s obvious due to the bruises around her neck that her death was no accident. The third couple, Louis and Jenny, are quick to point fingers at Ben, citing the fight he and Rachel had before Rachel left. But when Gabby verifies Ben’s alibi, anyone could be the killer.

One Little Secret is a misnomer; every couple has its secrets, and some have secrets from each other. The book goes back and forth from the time Rachel’s body is discovered to earlier in the day, fleshing out the histories of each couple. Unfortunately, as the reader gets to know each couple (mainly the female half) better, they all become more and more unlikable – even the biggest victim. Because of this, although I was still intrigued by the mystery, I didn’t care about any of these characters. Gabby, however, I did care about, and I was impressed by how the author tied in a date-rape case Gabby was investigating to the murder. Holahan’s ability to casually drop information that later proves vital is also impressive. About three-quarters of the way through the book, a final secret is revealed (one I had already inferred), and at that point, I questioned whether these couples would have even gone on this trip together in the first place.

Still, even with these problems, the novel is a good beach read, and should appeal to fans of Moriarty as well as Ruth Ware and, of course, Dame Agatha. And even though poor Susan’s vacation didn’t work out the way she planned, don’t let that keep you from trying to turn your neighbors into friends. Adults don’t have enough of them, and most people aren’t hiding big, deadly secrets. Most of them.

Thanks to Meryl Moss Media for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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