Book Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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Secret 2

Publish Date: July 9, 2019

Everyone has a secret. For some, it’s worth dying to protect. For others, it’s worth killing.

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town—and desperate for some kid-free conversation—she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others’ marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

Would you go on a week-long vacation with your neighbors? That’s what Ben & Rachel, Jenny & Louis, and Susan & Nadal did after their kids depart for summer camp. When the kids are away, the adults play! What started out as a fun, boozy, relaxing getaway to the Hamptons ends up with one of the neighbors dead after the first night.

The story is a whodunnit in the Hamptons. It has drugs, alcohol, secrets, naughty parents and people who think that they’re above the law. It’s told from multiple perspectives: each of the six neighbors and Gabby the detective.  We get to know each character in flashbacks and events in the days before, during, and after someone ends up dead. There is also a side story that is connected to the main plot and further ties the characters together.

The neighbors are upper-middle class parents with successful careers as a doctor, attorney, tech CEO, and writer. None of the neighbors are particularly likeable and they don’t even seem to like each other. I didn’t connect with any of the characters but the storyline is very engaging because it’s about people making really bad decisions. Any one of them could have been the victim or a murderer, so that’s what makes it so interesting.

As the story progresses, I learned that nothing is as it seems and these people are more than just casual neighbors. These six people share more than fences and playdates. They are involved intricately in many unexpected ways.

My favorite excerpts/quotes:

“The social hierarchy of East Coast suburban moms mimicked high school. Stay-at-homes who regularly ran out the door without their hair brushed were the wallflowers. Harried working moms were the nerds. Ladies who lunched, aka stay-at-home moms with staff, were the popular girls who planned lavish charity events and shared all the relevant gossip. At the top of the ladder, however, were the women like Jenny who somehow juggles successful careers and still showed at school functions, and fund-raisers looking like they’d spend all day at the salon. They were the prom queens.”

“They all had their secret skills. Some people dove into the water like gannets. Some people efficiently dispatched messes, despite being drunk. Some people expertly lied to their significant others. They were all so fucking talented.”

“There’s a special place in hell for people that don’t know the importance of family.”

I like that this story has unusually diverse characters – black, white, Filipino, Middle Eastern – and none of them were stereotyped. It does have a few trigger topics such as domestic abuse and rape, but it’s written very respectfully.

This book is about secrets, marriage, betrayal, murder, domestic violence, assault, addiction, family, and love. I like this book so much better than Cate Holahan’s first novel, Lies She Told (my review here). This book has a steady pace, many twists, and reveals that made my mouth drop.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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