A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams, 2021
Heather Evans, freelance writer
Her mother Colleen, who has just committed suicide
Michael Reave, the accused serial killer
DI Ben Parker, the detective
The Plot (from Goodreads):
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.
I am a big fan of twisted serial killer tales, and this one will stay with me for a long time. I was drawn in from the first chapter, a “before” section where we first meet Michael. This is the first book in a while that has actually creeped me out. I loved the spooky setting of an old house in the dreary outskirts of London, and the author did a great job of painting a dark, gloomy picture of every situation.
A Dark and Secret Place brings up haunting thoughts about not really knowing someone you have known your whole life. It is always unsettling to learn facts about a person close to you, such as a parent or spouse, which make you question whether you know them at all.
I thought Heather was a good protagonist. Her journalism skills served her well as she attempted to uncover the truth about Michael and about what her mother had known. She is clearly trying to reconcile the complicated relationship she had with her mother with how much she misses her now, while also figuring out where this new information fits in. I especially like how she doesn’t take shit from men talking down to her because she’s a woman!
The scenes between Heather and Michael were very well written. Strong Silence of the Lambs vibes here! The way Heather drew Michael out of his shell was fascinating. I thought Michael’s character was really well done, and found myself wanting to know more and more about him.
The only aspect I disliked was the romance. I don’t think it added anything to the story, and found myself skimming those pages. I think doing away with them would have helped the pace of the book move along a little faster and held my attention better.
This was my first book by Jen Williams, and it did not disappoint. I definitely will be looking into more of her novels in the future.
A Dark and Secret Place will be available on June 8, 2021. Many thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Read this if you liked:
- The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
- The Witch Elm by Tana French