Cover Image: The Secret

The Secret

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Member Reviews

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a slow start and took until half way through before I got into it. Then it kept me gripped and I raced ahead. It wasn't very believable in the way the police conducted their interviews. There weren't any characters I warmed to either. The ending was a good twist, as I was a bit worried it would end on a cliffhanger.
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Hidden deep within the small village of Abingworth, each of its residents has something to hide. When a local teenage girl uncovers the truth of one, someone decides that taking her life is the only way to protect it. A slow burning psychological suspense, never was the phrase of “two can keep a secret – if one of them is dead” more relevant than in this book.

The Secret is an intriguing tale with its complex relationships, that are wrapped up in secrets and lies and covers themes of coercive control, mental abuse and domestic violence, which Howells deals with sensitively. It kept my interest throughout, its characters strong and its short chapters made for a quick read in the lead up to its thrilling finale that took me completely by surprise! A dark and sinister read, I throughly enjoyed this book.

Thank you to Debbie Howells, Avon Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of The Secret, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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I love! this book. It's my first time reading a book by Debbie and tbh I was flabbergasted.



It tells the story of Hollie and Niamh, two best friends living in a village. They're actually the only teens there so they pretty much go everywhere together. One day, Hollie confides in her friend and tells her an awful secret. One that Niamh promises to keep. Soon, Hollie goes missing and the whole village is in uproar as investigations begin.



The story is told in both Niamh and her mother, Elise's perspective. There are a lot of trigger warnings here. Mental health is at the core of the themes as Niamh looks on at how her mother diminishes day by day, subject to her father's abuse on both of them. Elise becoming a shadow of herself, as her husband continues to reign his dominance on her and her daughter is heart-wrenching. Being a victim of abuse myself, I couldn't hold back my tears. Niamh knows a lot more than everyone thinks she does. She has learnt to keep quiet and watch. The repercussion of which is deadly.

I love how Detective Jo comes on the scene. Being a victim of an abusive husband, she knows all too well the signs when she see one. Hence, her trying to persuade Elise to take matters into her hands before it's too late. But nothing is easy. Especially in situations like this, in which the victims have been manipulated psychologically. They feel fear and they can't leave.

I absolutely love the way the facts played out. Getting to discover the secret that the town was holding was absolutely shocking. I couldn't believe it! It was so sad that poor Hollie ended up the way she did.

This is one of my best reads this year. Totally adore it. Thank you very much to Netgalley, the Publisher and Debbie Howells for the arc copy of the book.
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Best friends Hollie and Niamh tell each other everything. One day Hollie tells Niamh about a devastating discovery, swears her to secrecy, then vanishes.  When Hollie's body is found and it looks like it was not an accident, and then secrets start to come out.....
This author's books are either a hit or a miss for me, and I think this one is more of a miss.  It wasn't terrble...don't get me wrong.  It just wasn't great.  I just didn't feel that any of the characters were especally likeable or someone I really wanted to root for.  There were a lot of characters that I didn't like however.  I never felt really invested in the story either.   The best part about it was the last page of the book where the big reveal was.  That is the part I do love about her books.  She always has a shock-factor at the very end of the book.
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A Sussex village, a teenage love affair, a fast friendship between  16 and 14 year old girls. A death, a porn ring....a poisonous marriage. The narrative switches between 14 year old Naimh, her mother Elise and detective Sergeant Jo. The writing is assured, secrets unravel, the mystery twists and turns. It's just gone 1:30am and I've stayed up to finish this engaging story.
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The plot centers around two teenage girls and their parents/carers.  I liked the skillfully woven intricacy of how all their lives intertwined, secrets unfolding and nothing is what it seems.  Compassionately written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Hollie and Niamh Buckley tell each other everything, one day Niamh learns a secret from Hollie and swears to keep quiet about it. But when Hollie is found dead everyone is a suspect in the village of Abingworth. 
Elise Buckley who works in an airline as one of the cabin crew has her own secret to hide – she also has a husband who has always have extra marital affairs – it’s also very well known to almost everyone in the village. 
The cops have to find out what happened to Hollie and why was she killed – was it the secret which killed her?

Thanks to Netgalley & Avon Books UK  for the ARC!
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Thank you to net galley and the publishers for an advance copy..
A very readable and enjoyable book.
The story follows the investigation into the murder of a young girl in a small English village. The village is populated by seemingly wealthy families but as the story unfolds the secrets of the villagers are slowly exposed.
It is told from the first-person point of view of several of the main characters changing chapter by chapter. but this does not affect the speed at which the plot unfolds. There are some disturbing subjects covered in the story including marital abuse, internet pornography, and the trafficking of minors for sexual purposes which give a sad view of the society in which we live.
I did not catch on to the secret of the title until it was revealed at the end.
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Hollie's secret was so devastating that someone killed her.  DS Jo May finds she has a tough road ahead to discover not only the secret but also the villain in this story of a village and a family where not everything is as it seem.  Niamh, Hollie's best friend and confident, and her mother Elise both tell their versions as does Jo.  Things spool out slowly and while you like me, might spot some of the issues, there are good twists that surprised me.  The short chapters will keep you turning the pages (so easy to read just one more) as will the plot.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  A very good read- perfect for travel (real or armchair!)
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A great psychological thriller. 
This book kept me reading in to the night.
Elise is cabin crew and married to the local GP living in a large house her life on the surface is perfect, but is it?
 Elise and her husband Andrew have a daughter Niamh who is best friends with Hollie , Hollie is found dead was it an accident or murder?
This story has plenty of twists and turns which kept my attention throughout ,showing a web of lies and deceit which can be found in a picturesque village , scratch the surface and it’s surprising what you might find.
An easy , enjoyable read .
Highly recommended!
Thanks to NetGalley and Avon Book UK.
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What secrets does the village of Abingworth hold? In this story we meet Niamh, a 14 year old girl who’s best friend Holly has been keeping secrets and has now disappeared. Elise, Niamh’s mum, who is keeping secrets of her own and then Jo, the detective sent to find missing Holly. Told from all 3 prospectives we learn a little about what led to Holly becoming more and more secretive before she finally disappeared. We learn more about Elise and her family and the progress Jo and her team are making in their search.
The plot line touches on several trigger points so be prepared for a child porn ring, abusive and coercive relationships, death of a child and suicide. All of which are briefly touched on but done so in a sensitive manner.
I was initially drawn into this and suspected everyone, however at times I felt it was a little slow and dragged. 
I had the audiobook and the Ebook and found that having the audiobook helped to discern the difference between the characters as they were read by different narrators and did feel that if I had read alone they might have blurred together as when I did read chapters they were very ‘samey’
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this title
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Rating:  1.8/5

The early sections of "The Secret" are reasonably engaging and had me looking forward to how it would develop.  Sadly, it wasn't long before the early promise faded and the content became decidedly mediocre.

Although it isn't clear from the accompanying blurb, the key themes of the novel relate to coercive control and abusive relationships, backed up by a sub-plot concerning child pornography.  These are important and hard-hitting topics with plenty of potential for heart-wrenching feelings to be evoked.  Unfortunately, it is handled in such a clumsy, stilted and wooden fashion that its impact is lost.

The narrative is told from three perspectives:  Niamh, a teenage girl whose best friend, Hollie, has disappeared; Elise, Niamh's mother; and Jo, the Detective Sergeant investigating Hollie's disappearance.  Multiple points of view can be an effective literary mechanic when it is executed well, but it does depend on each protagonist being given a clear, distinct voice that is appropriate and credible.  I never truly felt that the author achieved that in this case.  Perhaps it wasn't helped that the first person narrative was used for each of the three, but there was rarely any clearly discernible change in tone, so it was a bit samey and simply sounded like the author providing the narrative rather than three believable, albeit fictional, creations.

The pace of the story didn't really work for me either.  Following the initial scene setting I was expecting things to move up a gear, but there were too many chapters that contributed too little to the process of moving the story on.  I was hoping and expecting to sense the atmosphere and tension building, but instead the narrative was quite monotone and flat.  This certainly wasn't helped by some unnecessary repetition, unconvincing dialogue and simplistic two-dimensional characterisation.  The pace does pick up from around the 60% mark, but the plot twists that help to drive the momentum are hard to swallow. The ideas behind the twists were quite appealing, but the execution was a bit shoddy and relied on developments that were too convenient or too contrived.

Some promising moments, but overall, not one of the better novels I have read this year.

As ever, I would still like to convey my thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for supplying an ARC in return for an honest review. It is a pity I was not in a position to pass more favourable comment on this occasion.
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“One of those villages where everyone has a secret.”

That perfectly describes Abingworth and its residents. Elise Buckley is navigating her troubled marriage to Adam while trying to present a perfect façade to the village. Adam is far from the genial physician he appears to be. Her daughter Niamh has kept her best friend Hollie’s secrets from both her parents. And Abingwoth itself is the subject of a covert police investigation. All of this bubbles to the surface when Niamh’s best friend Hollie is murdered. Is her death linked to the ongoing police investigation? Or could it be something darker?

Told in the voices of Elise, Niamh and investigator Jo, The Secret is a twisty thriller, full of surprises. Serious themes are addressed: murder, suicide, abuse and child pornography. The characters are well drawn although all are not likable. The setting of a small, secluded village adds to the feeling of isolation adds to the hopelessness felt by Elise and Niamh. 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Avon Books UK and Debbie Howells for this ARC.
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**Listened to the audio book, and read along with the electronic copy too**

This book was certainly page-turning. I found myself engrossed in the plot from the very beginning, it didn't take long to feel immersed.
Howells writing was incredibly visual, and while reading/listening I felt like I could see the story being played out in front of my eyes, it was really easy to visualise it all. It made me think it would make an excellent TV series.
There were a lot of characters in this book, and usually it is something that I struggle with. However, the characters were all so very different and the narrator portrayed all of the characters so well that I didn't feel lost or overwhelmed at any point.

There was times when the pacing slowed down a bit, and I was just waiting for the next 'bombshell' to take place. However, for the most part it was pretty full on the entire way through.

I thought the audiobook narrator was brilliant, and was great at portraying all of the different characters.

Overall this was a great thriller, and I enjoyed it. It is not a book that will stay with me, but I did enjoy the reading/listening experience.
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This was such a great read, I loved it. It was so twisty and full of red herrings all the way through with creepy undertones. I was completely engrossed in this book. I kept guessing who did what and halfway through the book no-one was innocent but, I wasn’t prepared for the twist at the end!!!! This was such a great book. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Avon for the advance copy of The Secret by Debbie Howells. 
When 16 year Hollie disappears from the small village where she lives with her father and stepmother it sets in motion a terrible train of events that shatter Elise and her daughter Niamh’s lives. A fabulous book about bullying and the control the bullies can have over you.
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Talk about a tense and suspenseful story!  Seamlessly told from three perspectives, it is absolutely riddled with secrets and deception.  I so badly wanted to reach the ending yet dreaded being finished this tongue-gnawing book.  The writing is impeccable, clever and gripping.  Much of the time I felt I was there, in the thick of things, feeling a range of emotions.  Surprise twists kept coming and the ending left me breathless, the perfect close to a brilliant plot.  

Abingworth is a small village whose residents pretend not to know goings on but secretly do.  Neighbours do not exactly look out for each other and no one knows what really goes on behind closed doors.  Or do they? Flight attendant Elise lives with her controlling and abusive husband, Andrew, the local GP and their teen daughter, Niamh.  Hollie and Niamh have a unique, almost perilous friendship.  When Hollie is discovered dead, the village produces more questions than answers, making detective Jo's task challenging.  Not only that but a child porn case rears its ugly head.  There are more than enough stories to provide fodder for gossip...and for readers to mull over.  That ending, though!  

Thriller and suspense readers, add this to your priority list.  It is well worth your time.  Be aware that domestic abuse may be a trigger.

My sincere thank you to Avon Books UK and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this fabulously suspenseful book!
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Abingworth is idyllic.  One of those postcard pretty villages, where the houses are beautiful, the residents affluent, and the families perfect. Of course, like all villages, there are secrets and lies, but this one has a deeply dark and very unpleasant issue at its core.

Elise and Andrew Buckley, along with their daughter, Niamh, are one of those ideal families.  They live in a big, beautiful house, Niamh goes to the local private school for privileged children, Elise works as cabin crew though there is no need for her to work at all, and Andrew is the local GP, loved and revered by all his patients and the local community.  In all, the perfect family.  Or are they?  What deep, dark secrets do they have?  As the story evolves, we get to see how disfunctional this family unit is, and what terrible lives they lead.

Beyond the storyline, this book raises some hard issues, no spoilers, but we never know what goes on behind close doors.

This was a good read, some scenes shocking but well written.

Thank you NetGalley.
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This book covers some difficult subjects- abuse, pornography -  but in a sensitive way. There are so many twists making it a gripping read and one that I will recommend .
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an ARC
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Trigger warnings: Death of a child/parent 

What a book! Debbie can take all my coins because what a wow! The book centers around Hollie and the ripple effects her death causes on those left behind. Hollie and Niamh are close friends even though they are of different ages and one day Hollie tells a secret to Niamh but what happens to a secret when one person dies? 

How far will one person go to protect a secret. Among the suspects are almost perfect Dr. Andrew Buckley and Elise who are Niamh's parents. The seemingly good doctor and flight attendant also have their own secrets and Hollie's death also cracks open the Pandora box. Among the other suspects are Hollie's parents, the neighborhood man in the suit and pretty much the whole town. 

If you are looking for  a thriller you can read all day without taking a break this is it. The book captures and  won't let you go till you are done. A huge thanks to Avon Books for my complimentary copy . All opinions expressed are my own.
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