Book Review: ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

Within 24 hours of receiving a galley of Cate Holahan’s thriller ONE LITTLE SECRET, I finished the book and published a review. If that’s not the definition of a “page-turner,” I don’t know what is!

While the novel’s beginning overwhelms with a robust cast of characters, the narrative quickly comes into focus as individual characters are fleshed out and their entanglements and conflicts are brought into full relief. Each chapter ending propelled me into the next in a voracious search for the truth. But, as readers learn throughout this journey, truth is complicated: an infinite spectrum, shades of gray.

The beauty of ONE LITTLE SECRET lies not in its ability to dangle readers on the hook or in its suspenseful rendering of “real-life” scenarios, although it achieves both seamlessly. No, the novel’s pinnacle achievement is in the crafting and representation of relatable individuals: ones who have indisputable redeeming qualities despite their obvious flaws. This duplicity of human nature, and the exploration how far one will go to protect family and self, make for a captivating, quality read.

This title is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on July 9, 2019:

NOTE: Special thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for granting me an advance e-copy of this title.

Holly’s Mid-Year Highlight Reel: Five 5-Star Reads

1. THE HUNTING PARTY by Lucy Foley

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

2. THE WOMAN IN THE DARK by Vanessa Savage:

In the vein of The Couple Next Door, a debut psychological thriller about a woman who moves with her family to the gothic seaside house where her husband grew up — and where 15 years ago another family was brutally slaughtered.
Sarah and Patrick are happy. But after her mother’s death, Sarah spirals into depression and overdoses on sleeping pills. While Sarah claims it was an accident, her teenage children aren’t so sure. Patrick decides they all need a fresh start and he knows just the place, since the idyllic family home where he was raised has recently come up for sale. There’s only one catch: for the past fifteen years, it has become infamous as the “Murder House”, standing empty after a family was stabbed to death within its walls.

Patrick believes they can bring the house back to its former glory, so Sarah, uprooted from everything she knows, pours her energy into painting, gardening, and giving the rotting old structure the warmth of home.

But with locals hinting that the house is haunted, the news that the murderer has been paroled, strange writing on the walls, and creepy “gifts” arriving on the doorstep at odd hours, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t right. Not with the house, not with the town, or even with her own, loving husband — whose stories about his perfect childhood suddenly aren’t adding up. Can Sarah uncover the secrets of the Murder House before another family is destroyed?

3. THE HOMECOMING by Andrew Pyper

Bestselling author Andrew Pyper returns with a riveting psychological thriller about how the people you’ve known your whole life can suddenly become strangers.

What if everything you knew about the people you loved was a lie?

After the death of their absentee father, Aaron and Bridge Quinlan travel to a vast rainforest property in the Pacific Northwest to hear the reading of his will. There, they meet up with their mother and troubled sister, Franny, and are shocked to discover the will’s terms: in order to claim their inheritance they must all remain at the estate for thirty days without any contact with the outside world. Despite their concerns, they agree.

The Quinlans soon come to learn their family has more secrets than they ever imagined—revelations that at first inspire curiosity, then fear. Why does Bridge have faint memories of the estate? Why did their father want them to be sequestered there together? And what is out there they feel pulling them into the dark heart of the woods?

The Homecoming is at once a gripping mystery, a chilling exploration of how our memories can both define and betray us, and a riveting page-turner that will have you questioning your very existence.

4. THE LAST by Hanna Jameson

For fans of high-concept thrillers such as Annihilation and The Girl with All the Gifts, this breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war—along with twenty other survivors—who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks. 

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?

5. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT by Chris Bohjalian

From the author of The Guest Room, a powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police – she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home – Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.