Our Dark Secret is Jenny Quintana’s second novel. Her first, The Missing Girl, (shockingly about a girl going missing, though also its impact on those left behind) which I read and reviewed, was published in 2017.
As this book’s about the discovery of skeletal remains and unfolds in a couple of timeframes ,there’s again a theme around past events and… secrets.
Our Dark Secret
by Jenny Quintana
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
The crazy girls, they called them – or at least, Elizabeth liked to think they did. As a teenager in the late 1970s, she was clever, overweight and a perfect victim for the bullies.
Then Rachel and her family arrived in town and, for Elizabeth, it was as if a light had been switched on. She was drawn to the bright and beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame.
Rachel had her own reasons for wanting Elizabeth as a friend, and Elizabeth would do anything for Rachel.
Then the first body was discovered.
Twenty years on, Elizabeth wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of her teenage years where they belong: in the past. But another body has been found, and she can’t keep running from what happened.
I have to admit I initially struggled with the fact that our narrator Elizabeth tells us multiple times in just the first few pages that she’s overweight. It’s in an oblique way each time – the way she’s perceived by others, how she feels, names she’s called – but I wondered why Quintana felt the need to highlight it so much.
Of course, it’s made more obvious when (at 14yrs) she meets the alluring (popular and attractive) Rachel and I was keen to see how their friendship blossomed. It’s not an uncommon theme… the popular girl at school becoming friends with an outcast – to the surprise of others and / or increased acceptance of aforementioned outcast.
Here though the relationship between Rachel and Elizabeth is a little different. Indeed, Elizabeth offers up a hint that the unfolding friendship may not be what we’re expecting…
I was creating a fairy-tale friendship and the problem with fairy tales is that they’re packed with bad characters as well as good.
In fairy tales, it’s obvious who those bad characters are; in real life, it’s more difficult to tell. p 133
It’s certainly hard to work Rachel out. Elizabeth is pretty obvious. She’s our narrator in both the late 70s and late 90s (the now) and she’s unabashedly honest. There’s some foreshadowing so we know she knows something about the newly-discovered bones that she thinks would be of interest to the police.
There’s actually an interesting theme around people (good / bad) being what they seem (or not) throughout this book, and I liked that Quintana reminds us how easily we can be mistaken in our perception of others.
I also liked that Quintana touches on the way children view their parents and how (sometimes) they manipulate them without fully understanding the consequences.
In fact I assumed this book was going to be pretty predictable but it’s certainly not. It was possibly a little slow in getting to the twisty parts but once there she offered up several surprises, making this an enjoyable read.
Our Dark Secret by Jenny Quintana was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.