Sixteen months ago, Marin Machado was shopping for Christmas presents at the crowded Pike Place Market with her four-year-old son Sebastian. She briefly dropped his hand to text Derek, her husband. When she looked up, she realized Sebastian was no longer with her. Since that fateful day, she’s barely held herself together, and she and Derek rarely speak. The FBI has exhausted all leads and while Vanessa Castro, the expensive private investigator she secretly hired to find Sebastian diligently traces everyone who knew the little boy, she’s had little success finding any new information.
When Marin receives an unexpected request from Vanessa to meet in her office, she fears the worst, but Vanessa has no news about Sebastian to share. Instead, she learned that six months earlier Derek began an affair with McKenzie Li, a twenty-four-year old graduate student in art and barista. Marin might not be able to find or save Sebastian, but now that she knows McKenzie is a threat to the only family she has left, it galvanizes her into action. Marin is determined not to lose Derek, too, no matter what it takes, no matter what she must do.
A must for thriller fans, Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier overlays a mother’s grief and desperation with lost trust and betrayal resulting in a spellbinding narrative told through the dual perspectives of Marina and McKenzie. With some characters living on their last twenty dollars and some with millions to spare, the book shows how blinding money can be but how insufficient is it to provide the most important things in life.
The book is full of contextual details and secondary characters. Marin’s support group for parents of missing children is horrific and heartbreaking. Her upscale salon chain, managed by her friend Sadie, opens a window on the ultrarich in Seattle. The juxtaposition shows the great gulf between Marin’s past and present. At times, though, I wish that some of the secondary characters were more developed.
The complex themes give the book weight, but the fast-paced narrative make it impossible to put down, and the shocking (and some less surprising) twists combine to elevate it above most recently published books in the genre. It’s my favorite thriller of 2020 so far!
Little Secrets will be on sale Tuesday, February 21. Look for it at your favorite bookstore!
Thanks to Edelweiss and Minotaur Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.