Rose Blakey is desperate to leave her hometown and fulfil her dream of becoming a journalist. So desperate that she’ll do almost anything. There’s nothing for her in Colmstock – her mother and her new husband want her to move out, and she’s fed up working at the tavern where she’s subjected to daily ogling from the local cop. She’s devastated when she misses out on the cadetship upon which she was hanging all her hopes. But when her little sister finds a strange porcelain doll on their doorstep that looks exactly like her, Rose realises she’s found the story that could be her ticket out of town.
Rose’s article about the mysterious ‘doll collector’ garners the interest of a local newspaper and stirs up fear amongst the community of Colmstock, who, thanks to Rose’s creative writing skills, believe a predator is targeting their children. But just when it seems like she’s finally gotten her big break, the newspaper rejects her follow-up story. Desperate to succeed now she’s so close to scoring her dream job, Rose pushes the boundaries, snooping in a hotel room for evidence, conducting stakeouts of dangerous drug deals and eventually fabricating a story in the absence of new information.
Anna Snoekstra is an Australian author whose debut novel, the hugely successful Only Daughter, has been published in more than 19 countries and last year was optioned for a screen adaptation by Universal Pictures. Little Secrets is different in mood and pace from her tense and disturbing first novel – but hints of darkness build a slow crescendo towards a horrific and violent act that is deeply unsettling.
The mystery surrounding the identity of the doll collector takes a back seat to a story about the impact a sensational news story has on a sheltered community – one that’s already wounded after a recent arson attack killed a young boy. What starts as one lie creates a ripple effect like a drop in the pond, as suspicions mount into a seething paranoia. Several mysteries are deftly weaved into the narrative – who burnt down the courthouse? What is mysterious out-of-towner Will really doing in Colmstock? And who are the creepy kids who disguise themselves by wearing paper plate masks?
Told from the points-of-view of Rose, her best friend Mia and policeman Frank, these layered, intricate characters each have yin and yang personalities, and like the paper plate kids, wear masks to disguise who they truly are. Is Mia really the wide-eyed, girl-next-door who cares for her ailing father? Is Frank just a faithful cop who deserves a chance with constant crush, Rose? And who will the residents of Colmstock side with when Rose uncovers brutal truths amidst all the secrets and lies?
There’s a lot going on in Little Secrets but thanks to Anna Snoekstra’s clever plotting, it never feels confusing or overwhelming. The depictions of life in Colmstock from Rose’s point of view describe a regional town in strife following the closing of the automotive factory and for her, a future that involves working at the poultry farm or the tavern, creating a sense of overwhelming claustrophobia. The narrative explores the devastating consequences of the written word in the wrong hands, how mercenary acts unwittingly affect innocent bystanders, and the dark side of human nature. Anna Snoekstra has created flawed characters with questionable morals who will leave you thinking about them long after the story reaches its bleak yet bittersweet ending.
Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra is published in Australia by Harlequin Books.
Since the fire, the Rileys had become almost famous in town, triggering silence and averted eyes wherever they went. Their grief followed the couple like a cape.