Little four-year-old Sebastian and his mother Marin Machado are shopping in a crowded shopping centre in Seattle, just before Christmas. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. As Marin drops Sebastian’s hand to respond to a text message, the next two hundred and forty seconds will see the Machado’s world fall apart as the unimaginable happens and someone kidnaps their son.
A month after Sebastian went missing, the police and FBI have all but given up hope. While the case will remain open, their resources are now focused on the more recent missing child abductions. Marin hires a private investigator, Vanessa Castro, to continue looking for her son, “She couldn’t live with the thought that nobody was looking for him. Someone always has to be looking.”
Marin and her husband, Derek, are both independently wealthy with their own businesses. Their marriage is barely functioning now, as silence and distance have become the norm. Marin’s only comfort comes from her best friend and previous college sweetheart Sal Palermo, who has always been there for her and seems to know her best.
“For the past four hundred eighty-six days, sadness has knocked her sideways, debilitated her, confused her, made her weak, talked her into settling for things she doesn’t want, and never did. Rage, on the other hand, will get shit done.”
Derek spends considerable time at work but inadvertently his activities cross path with Vanessa’s investigation and she soon discovers that Derek is having an affair with McKenzie Li, a beautiful art student.
Jennifer Hillier creates a wonderful array of characters with a fascinating mix of personalities that help build a twisted plot that is horrifying. With each character, there is a notable suspicion that they are keeping something hidden, and as the story develops the diverse machinations and hidden secrets start to unfold. The backgrounds to the characters are explored in detail and often I felt this slowed the momentum of the story for no significant benefit.
Hillier cleverly illustrates the damage and lingering despair a parent faces for an abducted child and uses a parent support group to paint the various situations that parents are likely to encounter. There are only three possible scenarios for the children: they remain missing, they’re found safe or they’re found dead.
The pace of the story starts to accelerate towards the end as some atrocious actions are exposed and emotional bonds are forged or shattered. I really appreciated that each main character played a part as the story came to an enthralling end.
I would recommend Little Secrets as a great psychological thriller that is alarming, intriguing and cleverly plotted. I would also like to thank Corvus, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy in return for an honest review.