Desert Isle Keeper
Little Secrets is the latest novel of domestic suspense from author Jennifer Hillier, and I was blown away by its twistiness. On the surface, it’s another in a very long line of thrillers centered around a missing child, but once you start reading, it doesn’t take long to realize that Hillier has done something fresh and completely unique with this well-used trope.
It’s been a year since Marin Mochado last laid eyes on her four-year-old son Sebastian. He was last seen at a local shopping mall where Marin lost track of him in the few seconds it took her to answer an incoming phone call. Now the FBI case has grown cold and Marin is struggling to stay afloat in the face of her crippling grief. She blames herself for Sebastian’s disappearance, and the only thing that keeps her going is the slim hope that he’ll be found someday.
Marin and her husband Derek rarely speak these days. Derek seems to be traveling for business more often than not, and while there’s a part of Marin that misses the closeness they once shared, an even bigger part of her can’t be bothered to try to rekindle their relationship. She moves through each day, doing the bare minimum of what’s expected of her, waiting for the phone call that will tell her Sebastian has been found safe and sound.
After the FBI fails to turn up promising leads, Marin hires a private detective to continue the search. Unfortunately, the investigator doesn’t seem to be having any better luck, until she learns a startling secret about Derek. He’s been having an affair for the past several months, and signs point to his mistress’s possible involvement in Sebastian’s abduction. At first, Marin is shocked, but it doesn’t take long for that shock to turn to rage. Fueled by her desperate need to get even with the woman she blames for the destruction of her family, Marin embarks on a dark and dangerous journey toward truth and justice, caring little for what it may cost her.
Little Secrets is not a thriller for the faint of heart. Hillier manages to plumb the darkest parts of the human psyche as Marin navigates through a world she never expected to inhabit. Marin makes some deeply disturbing choices on her quest for justice, but it’s clear she’s acting out of a bone-crushing despair. Hillier does an excellent job showing readers exactly what has driven her to this point, and although I sometimes questioned the wisdom of her decisions, I always understood what prompted her to make them.
Most of the novel is told from Marin’s perspective, but we do switch narrators about halfway through. At first, I was put off by the switch, and didn’t understand what possible value there could be in seeing things through this person’s eyes. Fortunately, I kept reading and was pleasantly surprised by the added layer of depth this slight detour brought to the narrative.
I’m obviously not going to tell you who the villain is, but I am advising you to go into this story with a completely open mind. Take nothing and no one at face value, and get ready to be shocked a time or two. I had no idea where the story was going, and I’m in awe of the author’s ability to craft such a darkly complex set of circumstances.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you Little Secrets is my favorite thriller of 2020 so far. It turned out to be everything I was expecting times 100. The pacing is perfect. The characters are well-drawn and easy to empathize with, and the twists are phenomenal. If you haven’t already added this to the top of your TBR pile, I urge you to rectify the situation right away. You absolutely won’t be sorry.