Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little SecretsWhile finishing up her Christmas shopping in a crowded Seattle market, Marin Machado lets go of her four-year-old Sebastian’s hand for just a moment to text back to her husband. But in those moments, Marin’s world is shattered when Bash disappears and can’t be found.

Fifteen months later, Marin still hasn’t recovered from the shock and her marriage to Derek is on rocky ground. Haunted by “what ifs” with Bash, Marin wasn’t expecting the private eye she’s hired to discover another secret — Derek is having an affair with a younger woman named MacKenzie Li.

Enraged, Marin turns her pent up and anger and frustration about doing whatever it takes to rid herself of MacKenzie, which includes stalking her at her place of work, researching her on social media, and installing a shadowing app so she can keep track of everything Kenzie and Derek say to each other.

With the hook of a mother facing the worst day of her life when she loses her child, Little Secrets has a blockbuster premise that could (and possibly should) have added up to a more satisfying read than it turned out to be. The biggest issue is that once Marin finds out about Kenzie, the focus of the novel shifts dramatically (not that Sebestian is forgotten, mind you) with Marin’s obsessive quest to do something about her husband’s mistress.

Jennifer Hillier piles on multiple twists as the story unfold. But instead of ratcheting up the suspense to keep the pages turning, I found myself morbidly curious to see what kind of bizarre twist she’d come up with next. The final third of the novel pulls together a lot of dangling threads and while I never guessed where some of the big reveals would come from, there were a couple that felt too coincidental for my taste. (I won’t spoil them here).

I did find some of the elements more interesting than others. The thread about MacKenzie considering herself a “professional girlfriend” and one who blackmails married men out of thousands of dollars to support herself and her mother is interesting. Little Secrets works hard to create some parallels between MacKenzie and Marin, including giving both women a substantial backstory to explain why they do the things they do.

However, all this backstory can’t explain what characters have to do “dumb” things in the final third of the story in order to get us to the big reveals and the resolution. It left me with a hollow, unsatisfied feeling once the final pages were turned (or in the case of this audiobook, the final few pages listened to).

This story has a solid beginning that is, unfortunately, undermined by a disappointing conclusion.

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