Sunday, July 14, 2019

Book Review: Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Secrets to the Grave 
Author: Tami Hoag
Series: Oak Knoll (Book 2)
Publication: Dutton; First Edition edition (December 28, 2010)

Description: Marissa Fordham had a past full of secrets, a present full of lies. Everyone knew of her, but no one knew her.

When Marissa is found brutally murdered, with her young daughter, Haley, resting her head on her mother's bloody breast, she sends the idyllic California town of Oak Knoll into a tailspin. Already on edge with the upcoming trial of the See- No-Evil killer, residents are shocked by reports of the crime scene, which might not have been discovered for days had it not been for a chilling 911 call: a small child's voice saying, "My daddy hurt my mommy."

Sheriff's detective Tony Mendez faces a puzzle with nothing but pieces that won't fit. To assist with his witness, Haley, he calls teacher-turned-child advocate Anne Leone. Anne's life is hectic enough-she's a newlywed and a part- time student in child psychology, and she's the star witness in the See-No-Evil trial. But one look at Haley, alone and terrified, and Anne's heart is stolen.

As Tony and Anne begin to peel back the layers of Marissa Fordham's life, they find a clue fragment here, another there. And just when it seems Marissa has taken her secrets to the grave, they uncover a fact that puts Anne and Haley directly in the sights of a killer: Marissa Fordham never existed.

My Thoughts: This mystery takes place about a year after Deeper than the Dead. Vince has quit his job at the FBI and is doing some consulting. Anne has quit teaching fifth grade, is working on her psychology degree, and is also a child advocate for the Court system. Both of them are waiting for the trial of the man who attempted to murder Anne and likely did murder a number of other women. Anne suffers from PTSD and has nightmares.

Anne has chosen to be the advocate for 11-year-old Dennis Farman despite being told by her new husband Vince that Dennis was probably too far gone into evil to be redeemed. Sections of the book are told from Dennis's point of view and I have to agree with Vince. Dennis has violent and sexual fantasies and seems to alternate between needing Anne and wanting her dead. He's a pyromaniac with a knife fetish.

When a new child needs her, Anne is quick to volunteer. Haley is only four. She was found cradled next to her mother's brutalized and blood-soaked body. Marissa Fordham was an artist with a mysterious past. She was the protegee of local philanthropist Milo Bordain who is the wife of parking lot mogul Bruce Bordain and the mother of up-coming politician Darren Bordain. Marissa was a great mom and a girl who liked to have many men friends.

Haley is the only witness they have to Marissa's death but she is a traumatized four-year-old who calls all the men who hang around with her mother "Daddy." The Bad Daddy is the one who killed her mother. As Vince and the Sheriff's Department investigate, some people who were suspects in the earlier crime are suspects again.

This was a twisty and pulse-pounding thriller told from a variety of viewpoints. 

Favorite Quote:
"Anne, you need to learn the difference between sympathy and empathy," Worth said. "One makes you a humanitarian. The other will make you miserable."

"I'll remember that," Anne said, rising from her chair, giving the ADA a sheepish smile. "I don't know how successful I'll be adhering to it, but I'll remember it."
I bought this one July 3, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

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