A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Little Slow to Start

Adarkandsecret

A Dark and Secret Place is the first foray into thriller/mystery by an author whose body of fantasy work I love and as such this was also an impressive book although I didn’t love it quite as much as the author’s other books.

As the book begins we make the gruesome discovery of a dead woman, the body mutilated and staged in the horrific style used previously by the notorious serial killer Michael Reeve, known as The Red Wolf, except Reeve was caught and has been in prison since.

At the same time we meet Heather Evans.  Heather is returning to her family home.  A home she left as a teenager and hasn’t visited since.  Heather and her mother shared a strained relationship and Heather’s return has been brought about by the sad news that her mother has commited suicide.  Heather struggles to understand why her mother would take her own life, the suicide note itself is puzzling, but when she discovers a stack of letters between her mother and the serial killer the plot thickens.

Heather takes the letters to the police and becomes caught up in the hunt for a copycat killer – involving visits to the Red Wolf himself to try and discover if he is involved.

The story is told in two timelines.  We have Heather’s current timeline and we jump back to a young version of Michael.

This one does get off to a fairly slow start but I didn’t have a problem with the pace to be honest.  It slowly becomes obvious that Heather is the centre of something very odd.  She finds strange things in the house, there’s a creepy vibe to the place and sightings of a stranger lurking in the rear garden.  To be honest I don’t think  I could have stayed there so Heather was certainly a lot braver than I would have been.  Clearly somebody was leaving these ‘mysterious’ things for her and there was a tension about this element to the tale that was decidedly spooky.

The flashbacks to Michael were also a bit unnerving and dark in nature but I’m not going to discuss those here.

We also have the visits to prison where Heather visits with Michael in a desperate bid by the police to uncover anything about the new murderer.  The visits don’t turn out to be terribly helpful with Michael often behaving rather obtuse, spouting stories that resemble gruesome fairytales.  Michael has a very strange intensity to him that was a little unnerving and I couldn’t help having this odd ‘Silence of the Lambs’ vibe.

The story escalates when Heather decides to take matters into her own hands and the final revelations become a little frantic.

I liked this one, there are some good ideas here and the story is well delivered.  However, I didn’t love this one and I’m not sure that I can put my finger on why that is.  I think on the face of it I struggled to connect with Heather.  She could be a little bit prickly and in spite of her obvious intelligence she made some very dubious and risky decisions.  I was mystified by one of her decisions in particular but,again, I won’t elaborate.

I think my slight hesitation in falling for this was a slight disparity between the first half of the book and the second  They didn’t seem to gel as well as I would have liked.  The ending had an almost chaotic feel with all sorts of elements being woven into the storyline.  And the really odd thing is that now, reflecting on the story itself to write this review I struggle to recall some of the final revelations which is a really strange experience for me.

Overall, though, I did like this, it was a very easy read, gripping in fact, and I would love to see what the author comes up with next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

4 Responses to “A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams”

  1. Tammy

    I can’t believe I’ve never read this author before. I think I’ll start with her fantasy books😁

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Heather was kind of tough to like, I agree. I also thought the ending was a bit…full? I was just overwhelmed!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the balance wasn’t really quite right. Too much happening at the end.
      Lynn 😀

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