Secret Histories

From Crime Reads:

There must be people somewhere who lead charmed lives. They make no mistakes and have no regrets. Their days flow along pleasantly, each one better than the last. All their memories are good ones. There must be people like that, but if there are, I haven’t met them. I don’t think I’d like to read about them either. Their stories would grow stale awfully fast. And I know I wouldn’t want to write about them.

When I began to work on my latest novel, The Good Killer, I knew a handful of things about the protagonist, Sean Tennant. I knew he was haunted: haunted by what he’d seen during his military service in the Iraq war, and haunted by something he’d done after he returned home. By a burglary he had committed that had gone terribly wrong. I knew that he and his lover, Molly Winter, had fled from their old lives and gone into hiding, and that they had enemies who wanted them dead. I knew Sean and Molly had found a measure of peace living in a new city under new identities, and I knew it wouldn’t last. Because you can’t hide forever, and the past has a way of catching up.

I make no claim to originality here. Some of my favorite books are about the past catching up. 

. . . .

John Hart, Down River

This is the book that earned John Hart his first Edgar award, and it’s a rich, literary thriller. At the age of twenty-three, Adam Chase is put on trial for the murder of a high-school football player in his North Carolina hometown. The jury acquits him, unable to find a motive, but the damage is done. Even Adam’s family has doubts about his innocence. He leaves home, hoping to find a new life in New York. Five years later he’s back, drawn by a cryptic letter from an old friend. He’s not expecting a warm welcome, and he doesn’t get it. Some of the locals beat him up, and things go downhill from there. A young woman is violently assaulted and Adam comes under suspicion once again. The old friend he came back to see is missing, and soon turns up dead. Adam sets out to learn the truth about what happened, reconnecting with a lost love and uncovering his own family’s darkest secrets.

Karin Slaughter, Pretty Girls

Family history also lies at the heart of Karin Slaughter’s novel Pretty Girls, which revolves around a pair of sisters, Claire and Lydia. As teenagers growing up in Atlanta, the two girls experienced a heart-breaking tragedy: the disappearance of their older sister, Julia. From that point, their lives diverged. Lydia turned to drugs and petty crime; Claire married Paul Scott, a wealthy businessman, hoping he would take care of her. Years later, as the novel opens, Claire and Paul’s marriage seems to be a happy one. They meet for drinks at a bar and afterward duck into an alley for a playful make-out session. There they encounter a thief with a knife, and Paul, trying to protect Claire, is stabbed to death before her very eyes. After the funeral, as she’s looking through Paul’s effects, Claire discovers a cache of violent pornography on his computer: videos of young women being tortured and killed. The police are unhelpful, claiming that the videos look staged, but to Claire they seem real, and they lead her to doubt everything she thought she knew about her husband. She confides in her estranged sister Lydia, and the two of them set out to uncover Paul’s secrets, eventually coming to believe that he had a part in Julia’s long-ago disappearance. Slaughter builds the tension expertly, throwing in a series of twists and revelations that lead to an action-packed finale.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

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