Minotaur Books | 2020
Opening Hook: A split-second that changes everything
Main Character: Losing it all and not handling it well
Plot Twisty-ness: Totally lives up to the title
I’m a fan of Jennifer Hillier even though I’ve previously only read one other book by her – Creep. It made such an impression on me that I’ve picked up her work a few more times, but being that my TBR pile is so fucking huge this is only the second book of hers I’ve gotten around to actually reading and not just looking at on my shelves. I will say, Little Secrets has done nothing but convince me even more that Hillier is one of the best psychological thriller authors out there.
This book is basically about two of my greatest fears – a cheating husband and a kidnapped child. And no I don’t have any biological children of my own, but I do have a dog and that’s basically the same thing… *waits for mothers to scream at me about how it’s not the same thing at all…*
Obviously, I know having a pet and having a child is not the same same, but I love my dog more than anything. He’s my baby proxy. And if someone kidnapped him I would LOSE MY FUCKING MIND. I would tear the space-time continuum to shreds until I got him back.
Now, if my husband cheated on me I would lose my mind as well, but in a much different way. It’s just in his best interest if he stays loyal.
In Little Secrets, Marin is rich (you’ll hear about that a lot,) and successful – a hairstylist to the Stars, which I secretly would love to be even though I have no inclination to do hair, even my own. Maybe I just want to be a famous person with a hairstylist to the Stars. That seems much cooler. I digress… Marin’s got the big house and has been married to the man of her dreams for a couple of decades. Together they have an adorable 4-year-old son, Sebastian. Marin is basically swimming in all of our dreams, enjoying the safe and idyllic rich life most of us will never experience because life is actually a fucking bitch.
But as universal balance goes, that kind of good energy only lasts so long. One day, distracted by a phone call, Marin lets go of Sebastian’s hand in the middle of a crowded market. The next thing she knows, Sebastian is gone. Security footage reveals he was led away by someone in a Santa Clause costume. I can’t say that would work on me as a child, but it might work on me as an adult.
Months pass. Sebastian is never found. The police stop searching. The case goes cold. Marin’s marriage is falling apart. She’s filled with guilt. She believes her husband blames her for the loss of their son. She attempts to take her own life. Only a support group and a former boyfriend can keep her going. Until she finds a new fucked up purpose in life…
With no one looking for Sebastian anymore, Marin takes matters into her own hands by hiring a P.I. But instead of finding Sebastian, the P.I. finds that Marin’s turd of a husband is cheating on her with some young, pink-haired art student named McKenzie.
Her kid is missing. The woman is on the absolutely mental brink and her shitty husband is going to cheat?
Determined not to lose her son and her husband (but at this point I’m like who really wants the fucking dick hole?) Marin takes some drastic, and fucking crazy, actions to get her life back to some semblance of the normalcy she used to take for granted. From here, the book alternates between the POVs of Marin and McKenzie, portraying Marin as the character you root for (which you 100% do) and McKenzie as the fucking homewrecker you’d like to punch in the fucking throat.
I didn’t know how much this agreed with my feminist sensibilities on the surface. Like, let’s frame the stupid man as the villain, please? But McKenzie isn’t really innocent in all this so my feminist sensibilities feel solid in hating her.
The plot is filled with twists and deception at almost every plot point, but I still guessed some of it. What you gonna do with readers who only read thrillers?
While it was a completely riveting story that hooked me in like I bad Lifetime movie tends to do, it’s still pretty formulaic and not necessarily breaking any new ground when it comes to thrillers. But, it’s definitely not just another “missing child” plot. So if that’s putting you off, because it did for me, just forget it. It’s like the missing child is basically a catalyst for all the fucked up, good stuff.
Hillier’s gift in writing leans towards characters and drama. While the twists might be predictable for some, she wraps you up so compulsively in the characters and the tension the plot evokes, that you won’t see the forest for the trees leaving lots of surprises and shock moments to devour.
I did find some of the plot was a bit over-complicated near the end when the stakes are raised and Marin starts her shady shit. Some of this didn’t feel as finessed in flow as it could have, but that didn’t take away from the pace and excitement for me.
My only real issue lies with the ending, which was too neat and tidy, and a little rushed, while simultaneously being kind of unbelievable.
Still, a solid thriller that I think cements Jennifer Hillier as one the top writers of psychological thrillers, imho.
Overwhelmed by tragedy, a woman desperately tries to save her marriage in award-winning author Jennifer Hillier’s Little Secrets, a riveting novel of psychological suspense.
All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret…
Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family—until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.
A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.