Every so often a book surprises me – and Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra (HQ, PB £7.99) is one such read.
I picked it up expecting a straightforward story about a serial killer – after all, the blurb tells me that someone is leaving porcelain Victorian dolls on the doorsteps of households with small girls. The dolls are made to look like the child. What is going on?
When her little sister Laura receives a doll, twenty-four year-old Rose calls in the police. She is sure something sinister is happening in Colmstock, the small, depressed Australian town where she lives.
Rose’s interest in the investigation goes beyond protecting her sister. She has ambitions to be a journalist and believes the story could be her ticket out of town.
Her work in the local pub allows her to pick up all sorts of gossip, not least as her friend Mia begins dating policeman Bazza. His partner, Frank, is keen on Rose and she’s not averse to using this to dig deeper into the police investigation.
sinister notes are now appearing
The chief suspect is Will, a stranger to town. Frustrated by the fact that he won’t tell her anything about himself, Rose ransacks his motel room and finds a teddy in his suitcase – but no dolls.
She sets about interviewing the families who have received dolls. These include the Rileys, whose son Ben was killed in a fire just before the story opens. Now their little daughter is under threat, too. They’re not keen to talk to Rose, but other parents are – especially when they learn that the police are now receiving sinister notes from “the doll collector”. The townsfolk feel the polce aren’t doing enough to catch him.
Rose manages to sell her features to a national paper – making her very unpopular in town. But she is determined to keep going with the investigation.
Then she starts to uncover other things – about her stepfather Rob, Mr Riley, Will and even Frank.
What will she do with this information? Will it lead her to the doll collector?
In her quest for the truth Rose puts herself and others in grave danger…
what are folk capable of?
Rose shines as the central character, both as a filter for the flaws of the people who surround her and as a woman whose determination and grit sees her doing things she shouldn’t be proud of either. Is she the loyal sister, friend and neighbour she purports to be? Or does she too have little secrets to hide from others?
Mia seems like a lovely girl, looking after her invalid father, blind to the faults of gormless Bazza and steadfast supporter of Rose. But just what is she capable of?
And Frank! The dedicated police officer and admirer of Rose initially wins the reader’s sympathy. Then as the investigation gathers pace and suspects are reeled in, he shows another side that isn’t nearly so pretty.
The ending of Little Secrets left me gasping. After a twisty plot that kept me turning the pages long after bedtime, the resolution was unexpected but oh so, satisfying.
Little Secrets is so much more than a mystery tale. Anna Snoekstra delves deep into the psyche of small town minds to produce a powerful – often-damning – account of the lengths people will go to to protect themselves and others.
Definitely a five-star read!
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