A DARK AND SECRET PLACE
Written by Jen Williams
Published by Crooked Lane Books, June 8, 2021
My star rating – 4 stars
When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.
What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that mystery/thriller are my least read genre. I like the idea of them. I like mystery/thriller movies. But when it comes to books i’m always underwhelmed. When I finished this one though… I closed the book and literally said out loud “Wow, I actually liked that one!”
As the synopsis states, this book follows a woman named Heather as she returns home following the suicide of her mother. A loss like this would be hard enough to comprehend but what makes it harder is the fact that they had lost touch over the years. They had a falling out and hadn’t communicated much. In an attempt to piece together why her mother would do this to herself, she finds a box of handwritten letters to a famous serial killer. Heather isn’t your typical unreliable narrator but she is flawed. Broken after the loss of her father that she feels responsible for, struggling after a fallout with her mother, cast out from her job and the world of journalling, she’s kind of adrift right now. Then the stress of this loss was the tip of the iceberg.
Although Heather is our main POV, there are a few other perspectives along the way. One of them is from notorious serial killer Michael Reave himself. We meet him as a young child and follow him throughout his adolescence. I didn’t think I could like this POV at all but I did. It helped me understand him and the choices he made. It did, in a way, glorify him and even attempted to entice pity and empathy. These chapters were designed to make you understand his upbringing and how he is the person he is today. That was accomplished for sure, but I feel that it made him soft around the edges when he is clearly not. There are also a few other chapters from some other perspectives…. I’ll say nothing but those are the ones that literally had me looking under my bed lol!
While we’re still on the topic of perspectives, I will say that, as much as I enjoyed Heather as a flawed and relatable character, she really pissed me off sometimes. Her whole mission was to get information on her mothers past so she could figure out why she took her own life. She talks to many of her mothers old friends and even talks to Michael Reave himself, and EVERY SINGLE TIME she looses focus and direction. She starts the conversation asking about her mom and then quickly diverts to the murders. Also, when some seriously weird shit starts happening to her she doesn’t even bother bringing it up to the detective she’s got in her back pocket…… even when she knew that these things couldn’t be explained away and could possibly harm others. Use your freaking head woman!
Literally the best part of this book and the reason I think i’ve struggled with mystery/thrillers in the past, is the fact that it didn’t intentionally try to confuse you. Mysteries often present more questions than answers as a way to misdirect you and question what you think you know. That’s fun but only to a point. I hate it when books have you going in circles and presenting 10 new questions with every chapter. This book was stable and continuous. Sure we got a bunch of new questions along the way, but it wasn’t an overwhelming and topsy turvy puzzle.
I’m not gunna lie – I had this book figured out right from the beginning. But that didn’t matter. I still really enjoyed the reveal AND the author did throw a few plot twists our way that I wasn’t expecting! Another issue is that authors tend to come up with plot twists out of left field in an attempt to blow you away but they don’t make sense. Not in this case! All of the twists made perfect sense and lined up with the story, which made the ending all that much more enjoyable!
Now that i’ve read and liked this one, I’m even more determined to read more books like it! So if you’ve read this one and have suggestions, I’m open to hear them!
Until next time, happy reading!