The tree-hugger who moonlights as a serial killer

Jen Williams takes amateur sleuthing to a new level in A Dark and Secret Place with a dark twist at the end that readers won’t see coming.

Heather Evans and her mother never got along, and it seems they’ll never get the chance to after her mother shockingly commits suicide. After years of avoiding the place she once called home, Heather is forced to go back and put her late mother’s affairs in order, including cleaning the house itself. While cleaning, she discovers something even more shocking than her mother’s suicide: letters dating back decades from Michael Reave, the notorious serial killer who’s currently serving a life sentence and has been for the past two decades. A concerning thing to uncover about her mother, but not concerning enough for the police to get involved. That is, until new victims start appearing, their bodies ritualistically planted in the woods with flowers in and around them, just as Reave once did. But he’s locked in a prison, and has been, so who’s the one striking new fear into young women? Heather teams up with Detective Inspector Ben Parker to hopefully find some answers for the latest victims and herself. It will be anything but easy, but talking to a serial killer isn’t meant to be easy.

I’m an avid fan of Criminal Minds, and A Dark and Secret Place read like an extended episode, minus the BAU team I know and love. What I love about Criminal Minds is the deep dive they do into each suspect’s psyche. Jen Williams didn’t go into a full-on dive with technical terms and such, but she did give readers Reave’s background story by alternating with his point of view every few chapters. Quite honestly, those were my favorite to read: I enjoyed seeing how he grew up, what he was like when he was with Heather’s mother, how his personality drastically shifted based on who he was interacting with.

Heather’s chapters were drastically different, but that’s to be expected, as she’s not a serial killer. Compared to Reave, her chapters felt more classic murder mystery, but Williams definitely threw some twists in. Without giving too much away, there were several times where Heather came upon some eerie notes and other items that made it clear someone wasn’t happy that she was talking to Reave. In these moments, the story became more thriller than mystery, which I enjoyed because it shook things up, much like the chapters about Reave.

However, if I had to pick my favorite part of the book, it would definitely have to be the last few chapters. I can’t truly expand on why without giving any spoilers, but Williams threw in some final twists that I could have never seen coming, and I adore a good plot twist.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait June 8, 2021 to read said plot twists, but I promise it’s worth the wait.

Casey Larsen is an avid reader, but if you ask her what her favorite book is, you will likely get a different answer every time. She currently works part time in human resources and is pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in Literature. She hopes to one day work at a publishing house, helping future writers fulfill their dreams of becoming published authors. Between working and studying, she loves spending time with her friends, binging Netflix, and cuddling with her black lab puppy, Loki.

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