“Lana stared up at him from the surface of the lake, skin chalk-white, lips as dark as a rotten plum. The murky water shrouded her upper body like it was wrapped in dirty green veils, and below the waist Lana simply vanished into the haze. She wore a black blouse, one arm raised to shoulder height, elbow cocked, the other arm stretched above her head with the fingertips nearly breaking the surface.”
There are many, many things I liked about Secret 77 by Ty Treadwell. First, the author does a fine job of starting out at a slower pace to establish the characters and their relationships, then as the story progresses, building up to a driving level of suspense that kept me reading late into the night. Start this one sometime when you’ve got several hours to spare or can sleep in the next morning. You may not want to put it down.
Second, although this is a Mystery / Suspense novel, author Treadwell has a talent for beautiful descriptive language. By the nature of the genre, the story has to move along, and an author can’t linger over the beauty of his passages; however, the word pictures he drew were often small sweets to be unhurriedly savored before once again giving in to the sense of urgency.
As the story begins, main character Clay describes his life since his wife’s accident six months before, when she fell off a ladder and suffered a head injury. The pain from the injury has turned the once vibrant, artistic Lindsay into a semi-invalid.
When crime writer Clay starts to receive notes with numbered “secrets” which mirror the style of clues he gave in his recently published book, he sees it as a harmless prank by a fan. When the notes turn threatening, Clay is forced to go on a search for answers while trying to protect his vulnerable wife from learning too much about a past indiscretion. To assist him with his search he enlists the aid of both an old family friend and a private investigator along with a young female “housekeeper” whose true role is to help him take care of his wife.
The plot has nice little twists and turns, and most of the secondary characters are well-rounded. As the body count grows, nearly everyone begins to look like a suspect. If you enjoy trying to figure out who the killer is before the end of the book, you will have plenty of potential hints to sink your teeth into as you and Clay try to piece together the clues.
I do have a few small criticisms of this otherwise top-notch read. Initially, Clay got right up my nose with his constant whining about how difficult it is to take care of someone, do the housework, and try to earn a living. Seriously – anyone who has ever been a working mother would feel justified in giving him a hearty slap!
The second thing that worked my nerves about Clay is that the only real reason he didn’t call the police immediately was because he was concerned it would get him in trouble with his wife, and later, with the authorities themselves. Clay was supposed to be a nice guy, but I kept running up against that basic selfishness and had trouble connecting with him as a character in a fully sympathetic way.
With that said, I expect that selfishness is something the writer probably struggled with as he sought perfection in his tale because if it wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be a story. It made me view Clay less positively as a character, but I definitely wouldn’t have given up the suspenseful and engaging story it allowed Mr. Treadwell to write in order to have a less selfish main character.
In the end, I can comfortably recommend Secret 77 as a 4 star novel in the Mystery / Suspense genres. It compares favorably with Dean Koontz (in Suspense mode) and Gillian Flynn (in Gillian Flynn mode). The novel contains a few explicit sex scenes starring the book’s married couple and decidedly graphic descriptions of murder scenes. For this reason, I don’t consider it suitable for readers below the age of 17 or so.
For only $4.99, you can stay up way too late reading tonight! To purchase the Kindle version of Secret 77, just click here. You can purchase the iBook version from iTunes by clicking here.