This chilling tale of love and murder takes place in 1986, in the bucolic town of Oak Knoll, California, the setting for Tami Hoag's Deeper than the Dead. Tony Menendez is called to investigate a 911 call placed by a child who whimpered, "My daddy hurt my mommy." Arriving on the scene, he finds a critically injured 4 year old Hayley draped over her mother's bloody body. Tony asks former FBI profiler Vince Leone to help him find the child's father and he asks Vince's wife, Psychologist Anne Navarre Leone to comfort Hayley while trying to illicit more information from her. Hayley's mother was a single woman, and many men were "Daddy" for Hayley so the detectives' suspect list includes a number of men in Oak Knoll. As Vince and Tony employ 1986 era police technology to find the killer, disturbing mysteries surrounding Hayley's and her mother's pasts come to light. Two of the women who've loved and supported Hayley and her mother experience bizarre and violent incidents. Best friend, Gina, is abducted, beaten and left to die in a garbage-filled, rat-infested well. Benefactress Mrs. Milo Bourdain is the recipient of a parcel post package containing a woman's severed breasts. All the horror surrounding this case causes Anne to relive the terror she endured in Deeper Than the Dead, and once again she finds herself in a life or death confrontation with a demented killer.
In Secrets to the Grave, the victim, Marissa Fordham, is an artist, so it is fitting that Hoag uses an art metaphor to set the stage for the crime scene in the opening sequences. In describing the lovely house in the golden meadow she writes, "The scene was a plain air painting--soft and impressionistic." When the scene shifts to the interior of the house and Marissa's mutilated body is found, it becomes apparent that "a horrible still life had been staged." Tami Hoag not only tells a convincing and riveting horror story, she is an artist herself with the words she chooses to create images. Her images are so graphic and intense that the listener can almost smell the 2 day old blood and decomposing body.
Setting the story in 1986 adds a unique facet to the murder mystery. Cell phone communication, internet research, and DNA evidence won't be a part of police procedures for 25 years, but listeners might catch themselves mentally suggesting advice that the detectives can't possibly act on. Cultural references to the 80's suggest a simpler time of purity and innocence, but the violent events and coldblooded actions belie that illusion. Hoag makes frequent and effective use of other contrasts to add to dramatic tension. The reader, Kirsten Potter, is a skilled actress who can be equally convincing as nurturing mother or menacing psychopath. She keeps the tempo appropriate to the text and enhances the impact of Hoag's evocative words with her exceptional narration.
Although this excellent book is a sequel to Deeper Than the Dead, Tami Hoag includes enough background information that this book can stand on its own. However, Deeper than the Dead is also an outstanding book and should be read first in order that both books can be fully appreciated and that its villain remains a secret. This audio book is everything a mystery thriller should be and is highly recommended.
Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag
Read by Kirsten Potter
Random House Audio unabridged: 14 hours on 11CDs