Cover Image: The Secret

The Secret

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Member Reviews

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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This was a pleasant enough thriller to pass a few hours with. The baddie was really really bad with no depth to his character, but perhaps that is what psychopaths are like. The writing and plot structure were competent enough, but I did guess the big secret. The final twist was a surprise however. The detective Jo was also in The Vow and I liked her background story. I expect she will turn up in future books, but I would not read another one.
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What an ending.... this was such a great book. 
So much going on and not sure who to blame.
Well worth the read. 

Thanks to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for an early release of this book.
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My thanks to NetGalley and publisher Avon Books UK for the ARC.

Wow! just how many twists can one story hold!  I was absolutely glued to the pages from start to finish.  This is well-written and so intriguing as to how a myriad of secrets are revealed, and the ending - well, I never expected that!  Really good characters and believable dialogue.

There are just two teenagers in the wealthy village of Abingworth near Chichester - Hollie who is 16 and Niamh who is 14.  Hollie had a boyfriend Dylan and all the villagers knew they were in love, but then they split up and Hollie becomes somewhat unstable and makes Niamh her best friend.  Niamh knows Hollie is worried about something and eventually Hollie confides her secrets.  But Niamh has to promise she won't tell.

Niamh's parents are Elisa, cabin crew on short-haul flights, and Andrew who is the local GP.  Andrew is a serial adulterer and Elisa suffers his controlling and abusive behaviour only for the sake of her daughter.

Hollie goes missing for two days and is discovered in a frozen pool in the grounds of an empty house.  A murder enquiry is launched, led by DS Jo May who herself has recently come out of an abusive marriage.  The police see this enquiry as a way to dig further into the lives of the residents because they believe a child pornography ring is operating in the area - codenamed Operation Raiinbow.

As the investigation continues, Niamh, being Hollie's best friend, is frequently questioned, and gradually drip-feeds pertinent bits of information.  However, Jo and her team feel that the residents aren't being as forthcoming as they might - they all seem to be hiding secrets.

And indeed they are!  

Can Elisa and Niamh escape their living nightmare?  Who would want to kill Hollie?
Will Andrew be exposed for the psychopath he really is?

Lots of twists here.  Couldn't put it down.

Really good.
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Hollie and Naimh are best friends. They tell each other everything. One day Hollie confides something to Naimh, making her swear she will never tell a soul. Then Hollie disappears.
Detective Joanna May leads the search for Hollie. She is currently working on Operation Rainbow,  an investigation into a suspected porn ring. Is it possible this is somehow connected with Hollie’s disappearance?  That beneath the respectable veneer of residents in the quiet village of Abingworth someone is hiding secrets?
This is a page turning read which tackles some unpleasant themes. Abuse and child pornography being two of them. Naimh’s father Dr Andrew Buckley is a total monster. Controlling, physically and mentally abusive and serially unfaithful, he hides his character behind the respectability of his role as the local GP.  He’s probably one of the worst characters I have read in any book. His wife Elise suffers in silence, aware he currently has the upper hand, but all the while planning escape with Naimh.  As Jo May’s investigation proceeds she begins to uncover some surprising things.
This is a dark psychological thriller with multiple twists and turns. Well written, I found it difficult to put down.  Worthy of every one of the five stars I have given it.

I would like to thank Debbie Howells, Bookouture and Netgally for an ARC of The Secret in exchange for an honest review.
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A the only two teenagers in a small village, Hollie and Niamh tell each other everything. Behind Abingworth's closed doors, every family has it's secrets - and theirs might hide the worst ones of all. One day Hollie tells Niamh about a devastating discovery, swears her to secrecy....  then vanishes. All the villagers claim to know nothing. Until Hollie's body is found, and the police know that one of their number isn't just a liar, but a killer. 

Elsie and Andrew are not happy, neither is their daughter Niamh. Niamh's best friend Hollie had told her a secret before she disappeared. Was it the secret that that Hollie knew the reason she disappeared? All the villagers claim they don't know anything about Hollie's disappearance, but someone must know something.

This is a steady paced,  thrilling, twist filled and easy to read. The characters are well developed and believable. Filled with secrets, lies, and an ending I wasn't expecting. The plotline covers some pretty brutal secrets.

I would like to thank #NetGalley #AvonBooksUK and the author #DebbieHowells for my ARC of #TheSecret in exchange doe an honest review.
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To the village of Abingworth the Buckley’s have the perfect life.  But behind the scenes the family is completely different.  Elsie and Andrew are not happy.  Neither is their daughter Niamh.
Niamh’s best friend Hollie goes missing. Before she went she told Niamh she had discovered something and swears her to secrecy.
No one knows what has happened to her. Even after she is found dead. Villagers keep secrets.  But someone knows the truth. 
Who would kill to keep things secret.
A quick and interesting read. 
Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to see an arc
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Behind the village of Abingworth's closed doors, every family has its secrets - and the Hampton family’s doors might hide the worst ones of all.

Remember back to your teenage years, hanging out with your bestie and sharing secrets?! Well, I’m pretty sure those secrets were nothing compared to what Niamh and Hollie share with each other. The girls come to rely on each other as they are the only teenagers in the village. Not only that, they both have workaholic parents who aren’t always around to provide the support the girls need. One day, Hollie shares a devastating secret with Niamh and then vanishes. 

Howells is such a fantastic psychological thriller author! She masterfully doles out just enough information to keep readers in the dark yet craving more clues. Although I did figure out the twist in this one, I was more invested in the ‘why’ than the ‘who,’ and feverishly flipped pages as I neared the end. Howell’s short chapters, despicable and moody characters, and well-paced narrative made this a quick, yet heart-pounding read. 

Be forewarned; this is a dark domestic psychological thriller. Howells tastefully writes about difficult issues and complex relationships. The small village setting and gossipmongering are essential to the propulsion of the plot, as is the need for secrets to be kept. Howells writes to explore the idea that if only 10% of people in our world are good people, then we must know or be living with someone who isn’t as they appear to be. You’ll have to read to find out what secrets Abingworth is hiding and if the statistics can be applied to this village. Who is hiding a secret and what is it?

Debbie Howells, the irony/significance of Niamh’s name is not lost on me! 

I was gifted this advance copy by Debbie Howells, Avon Books UK, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review. 

Publishes January 6, 2022. 

I was gifted this advance copy by Debbie Howells, Avon Books UK, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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I enjoyed this suspenseful story.  This is my first book by this author which I enjoyed from beginning to end.  The characters pulled me into the story and kept me engaged to the end.  This is a well written story where the author used details to make the story realistic.  This is a fast paced story that is full of action and hard to put down.  A story that is full of secrets and who can keep them.  This is where the story starts.  Two people have the same secret but what happen when one of them turns up dead?  I enjoyed the twists and turns that left me sitting on the edge of my seat just waiting to see what would happen next.  This is a great story that I truly enjoyed and is worth the pick up.  I highly recommend this book.
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"When love consumed you the way theirs did, everything else was irrelevant." 

Only ten percent of people are good, or at least that what Elsie read in the newspaper. She hopes that not true, though, especially for her teenage daughter, Niamh.

Niamh and her best friend Hollie share everything - including secrets. And after Hollie tells Niamh her biggest secret, she disappears without a trace. And when her body turns up, it's clear she was holding more secrets than it seemed - and someone killed her to keep their secrets hidden. 

The Secret is a dark, twisted tale of lies and deceit. One of those stories where you can't trust anybody - it seems everyone has a secret they'd do anything to hide and the reader is suspicious of everyone. The reader is left trying to fill in the gaps as the characters hold back information from us, slowly giving us pieces of the puzzle one by one. 

Told from multiple points of view, this story is intricate and weaving -  with short chapters that keep the pace moving in a heart-racing kind of way.

This is not an easy read, exploring some dark and heavy subject matter - so read with caution. 

CW: Child Abuse, Sexual Exploitation and Assault, Murder.
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Niamh and Hollie are best friends, teenagers brought together through family and pain. When Hollie disappears does Niamh know what happened. Niamh’s parents Elise and Andrew are far from perfect. Andrew being the GP and wanting to keep his perfect life on the outside of their house but inside the house he is very different. One secret is in fact many secrets. 
This took me a little time to get into but when you hit that ‘one page’ that turns the story round then you know it’s a good read! Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for this arc in exchange for my honest review.
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„The Secret“ is a dark domestic drama which handles a lot of difficult issues. At first it seems like a thriller because a young girl is found dead in a small village. One of the main characters is Elise who lives with an abusive husband. In comes Jo, a police detective who is looking not only into the murder but also into a porn ring that operates from this particular village. It is an interesting and entertaining enough story and although it is all very sinister at the same time it is an easy read. There is not too much depth and I failed to connect to any of the characters because they are either uninteresting of unlikable. I feel I should have felt for Elise but I think she was just not likeable enough. I often have no patience for teenagers in books and here it is the same. It felt that stubborn Niamh just fed enough information at a time to keep the story afloat. If she would have told everything she knew immediately the book would have been a short story. So the author decided to make her shy and secretive. Her behavior really felt like it was written just for the purpose to make that book long enough and keep you guessing. And it worked. I did not predict the ending but it just did not captivate me.

As I said it is an easy read but it is not a very remarkable one. This is my fourth book from this author and overall I enjoyed them all. But I enjoyed this one the least.
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NB. The version of this I read was called The Stepdaughter. It's the fourth book I’ve read by Debbie Howells.

I very much enjoyed Howells’ first psychological thriller, The Bones of You, in particular.

Her latest is another complex story of relationships and of secrets and lies. I should also mention that it features domestic violence and references to child pornography (though no details etc).

This book unfolds from the points of view of Elise, a flight attendant; her daughter Niamh; and (later) Nicki, a detective sergeant investigating Hollie’s death. I liked that Elise and Niamh’s thoughts crossed over in time a little so you got different perspectives of the same event or discussion and I think this is one of the book’s strengths.

Howells also cleverly unpicks Elise’s marital issues. We know there’s infidelity as Elise tells us that off the bat but I felt initially she was unfairly antagonistic towards her husband Andrew and very petty. I didn’t understand why she stayed in the relationship. She talks about wanting to keep things normal for Niamh, but it seems like a really toxic environment for them all. Things change however and we learn we’ve only seen one side of Andrew and their marriage. That being said, I wasn’t sure the behaviour of the couple (and Elise’s thoughts to which we’re privy) were entirely consistent throughout the novel.

We meet Hollie before her unfortunate demise and she’s obviously very troubled, though – like those around her – we’re unsure if she’s being overly-dramatic.

Howells offers a number of potential plot-lines and suspects here so we’re kept guessing.

There’s reference to someone called Dylan – which I must admit I found distracting as he was mentioned before any context was provided. And then of course there’s Andrew’s infidelity, his treatment of Elise, Hollie’s father’s financial woes and dodgy investments.

Howells paces this really well and keeps the surprises coming and adds in a few final twists. Both mother and daughter are keeping secrets from us throughout most of the novel. Niamh is obvious about it but Elise less-so. And of course we’re unsure if those secrets play a role in Hollie’s death and all that came before it.

I was perhaps a little confused about some of the backstories, including that of Hollie’s mother (as opposed to her step-mother). Some of the timing didn’t seem to fit. It’s also highly likely I missed something about Andrew’s history and the couple’s decision to move to Abingworth in the first place.

In some ways we’re forced to consider who we trust and why here, and wonder if the people we assume to be ‘good’ are actually ‘bad’? Or at least, not innocent.

3.5 stars
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Oh my goodness what a roller coaster of a ride - I know this is used commonly but this is brilliant.  I hadn't read anything before by this author but she got coercive control done to a T.  I thought I knew where this was going but I didn't. 

This was definitely a one session read; so much that I hushed my husband as I was nearing the end.  

Please read this book it will be worth it. 

I was given an advance copy by netgalley and the publishers but the review is entirely my own.
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The village of Abingworth is a rather exclusive area to live, with large houses placed in countryside gardens with wooded areas and plenty of privacy. This is a village where the residents don’t have a huge sense of community or honest, real friendships. This is one of those areas where keeping up appearances is everything and for those with a social standing, it’s most important of all. Of course there’s so much more going on than anyone would admit too. Troubled teen Hollie has gone missing. Just beforehand, she briefly visits her friend Niamh and tells her a secret. One she swears to keep safe. However, as detectives arrive and start to ask difficult questions, can Niamh tell the secret to help find her friend? Or is it something so terrible that only by keeping quiet, can she keep her friend and herself safe? 

This was an entertaining domestic thriller with some fairly dark themes too. The story is told through two narrators, Elise who is Niamh’s mum and Jo who is the detective on the missing person’s case. Elise is a flight attendant, working unusual hours on
mainly short haul flights. In the first few pages as Elise drives a short distance home from the airport she has a lot on her mind. She is quite matter of fact in about Andrew’s serial infidelity and muses on who it could be this time. Early on, the author takes us on a night out with Elise and Andrew, who is the local GP. This is not so much a relaxed evening out, as it is a show. They must present their most united front in the local, so that everyone they meet must be sure of their relationship and their respectability. The truth is much different. 

This book brilliantly portrays coercion and how domestic abuse develops, slow and insidious, until you almost don’t recognise yourself. There are plenty of twists and turns here that keep you guessing, but one revelation jarred a bit and it felt weird that it hadn’t been mentioned sooner. It turns out that this picturesque village has some terrible secrets, all centring on a mansion where Hollie liked to trespass and explore. Elise wants to find out what happened to her, but also protect her daughter Niamh - the last person to talk to Hollie. Does she know more than she’s letting on? I was hooked till the end, as I usually am with this author. I hate false situations where people are putting on a front constantly, the question here is are they doing this to fit in or do they have something to hide? This is another entertaining thriller from this author and will keep you guessing.
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Wow! This thriller really caught me and now I feel like I need a few moments to process! 
The speed, the tension, the intricately woven plot, the fallibility of the characters made me bite my lip as I raced through it! Each character so well brought to life, so unique, vulnerabilities clearly demonstrated! 
Secrets abound  in this closed community! The twists and turns and developments are brilliant! How an author plots all of that amazes me! Trigger warnings for strongly coercive characters and domestic violence though. 
It is difficult to write a detailed review without giving spoilers, which I won’t do, if you like psychological thrillers, tense and pacy then read this! I LOVED IT!!
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I was looking forward to reading The Secret. The  novel is set in the small village of Abingworth wheee it seems everyone in the village has a secret. In particular behind the doors of the Buckley residence. Niamh Buckley is best friends with Hollie. Hollie tells Niamh about a devastating discovery, swears her to secrecy and then disappears. All the villagers claim to know nothing until her body is found. This book was billed as completely unputdownable suspense, however I found the majority of the book too slow placed. The twist at the end redeemed the book for me so I’ve increased my rating to 3.5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley, Avon Books UK and the author for the chance to review.
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“Only ten percent of people are good.”

Elise Buckley is a flight attendant, and as this book opens, she is watching a woman on her flight reading a magazine with this headline. Ten percent doesn’t sound like good odds - that would mean there are only about a dozen “good” people on her plane. Really though, this statistic shouldn’t have surprised her, as Elise knows all too well how many bad people there are in the world.

Elise and her husband, Andrew, seem like the perfect power couple. He’s a lead doctor in their small English village, and Elise is always jetting around Europe for her job. As every thriller reader knows though, those “perfect couples” are usually the ones who are worst off. That’s kind of a guide for real life as well, but yes - they are far from a perfect couple, whatever that may be.

Their daughter, Niamh, is a moody teenager, as is her best friend, Hollie. Elise feels distant from her husband, but she knows why that is. What she doesn’t know is why she also feels a distance from her daughter. She doesn’t realize that Hollie has shared a dark secret with Niamh, and now the young girls are dealing with very adult things all on their own.

Soon after Hollie’s secret is revealed, she goes missing. Her father and stepmother are hysterical with grief when her body is found, and the police go from looking for a girl who’s prone to running away, to trying to find out who killed her. As their investigation goes forward, village secrets start coming out, people start clamming up, and families start falling apart.

This book started good, kept getting better as it went along, and had a great ending. At one point, almost everyone in the book seemed to have a secret that could have theoretically led them to murdering Hollie. I guessed the killer, but only because I was suspicious of everyone - the author makes sure you are nice and twisted up before dropping that bomb. I liked this quick and enjoyable read; it was quite the mystery with a lot of different facets. 3.5 stars.

(Thank you to Avon Books UK, Debbie Howells, and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.)
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Wow! What an absolute corker of a book! More twists than your local theme park rollercoaster and some absolutely horrid characters who make for a great read. Families, close-knit villagers who close ranks when push comes to shove, dubious financial transactions and secrets between friends, not to mention an occasional lie to distract from what goes on behind closed doors. All of this and so very much more kept me turning the pages in Debbie Howells' latest gripping tale so fast that I had whipped through it in under 24 hours. And that is a rarity for me!
Niamh and Hollie are the only 2 teenagers in the village of Abingworth and as such stand out among the residents. They live in each other's pockets, telling each other everything. Yet when Hollie goes missing, Niamh seems to be in the dark as much as anyone as to what could have happened to Hollie. 
The ensuing police investigation uncovers far more than just what happened in Hollie's last hours and involves more of the village's residents than anyone would have expected when that first missing person report came in.
This is definitely a book which you need to put aside a few hours for; get some snacks in, turn off your phone and keep the coffee pot brewed because you won't want to put it down once you get started.
I'm not saying any more than that because the reveals need to happen entirely as the author intended so no hints let alone spoilers in my review. The only thing I will say is BUY IT!! You will NOT regret it. 
Huge thanks for the opportunity to read a prepublication copy of this book via NetGalley.
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The Secret is a tense psychological thriller that kept me reading late into the night. 

In the village of Abingworth, everyone has a secret to hide. 

Best friends Niamh and Hollie are the only two teenagers in this small community. They tell each other everything. One day, Hollie shares the secret of all secrets with Niamh and makes her promise not to tell anyone, no matter what. 

Not long after this, Hollie goes missing, and her body turns up days later. 

When Detective Sergeant May gets assigned with solving this case, she quickly learns that this village is full of people who don’t say much but are quick to point fingers at one another. 

This psychological thriller is slowly paced and intricately plotted and has multiple POVs. The chapters are fairly short and had me eagerly turning the pages. It deals with some dark themes, so it won’t be one that everyone can digest. 

I think the author accurately shows how debilitating emotional and physical abuse can be. 

I recommend this to those prepared for a psychological thriller that takes it time examining dark subject matter. 

CW: emotional and physical abuse/violence, child exploitation (non-descriptive). 

Thank you to Avon for the arc provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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