March 28, 2021

Book Review

A Dark and Secret Place

Jen Williams

reviewed by Chelsea Hofmann

A shocking suicide. A tin of letters to a serial killer. A mysterious secret past.

Heather Evans has never been particularly close with her mother. In fact, after her mother’s sudden suicide, Heather finds out her mother had a whole secret life. She had been writing letters to a convicted serial killer for years, Michael Reave, the notorious Red Wolf.

Just as Heather arrives at her mother’s house and starts to process her loss, more murdered women are turning up. These women are killed in the same way as the Red Wolf’s victims, which is a problem because he has been locked in a maximum security prison for years. The Red Wolf is Heather’s only connection with her mother- the last person alive who really knew her.

Heather’s journalist instincts kick in, and she has to speak with the Red Wolf. She goes to the prison and finds a complex man who talks mainly by retelling old fairy tales. Something isn’t right, and Heather starts to notice things in her mother’s house being moved around. She spots shadows at the edge of the woods. Someone is coming for Heather, and she needs to find out why.

Jen Williams uses lyrical storytelling to create an ominous story full of chilling moments, underscored by the feeling that something is not right. The bleak and atmospheric house near the woods gave me chills. Heather was an interesting and relatable main character with lots of gumption. I always felt that Heather was not safe, and even when she was, I feared she would soon throw herself into another precarious situation.

Williams uses old fairy tales to add to the mystery and create a complex serial killer. The book builds slowly, adding a new layer of the story bit by bit. I enjoyed Heather’s journey to learn about her mother’s past and loved how the chapters flipped and gave the reader Michael’s perspective in the past. A Dark and Secret Place will have you chasing down a serial killer, heart-pounding, and make you want to leave the lights on at night.

Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and Jen William for my ARC of this book. Opinions are my own. A Dark and Secret Place comes out on June 8, 2021.


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