Book Review #80 – Two Can Keep A Secret

I want to do something. For the missing girls, and the ones left behind – Karen M. McManus.

I love a good murder. I love Young Adult too. So when the two merge together I’m gagging at the bit to get a hold of it. I found Karen M. McManus’s work through her debut, One Of Us Is Lying and although predictable (it is extremely similar to a particular CSI episode), I couldn’t help but devour it pretty much whole. This time, the story is set at Echo Ridge, another picturesque town with a high school where popularity seems to get you nowhere. In fact, it gets the homecoming queens dead.

Ellery and her twin brother, Ezra, have to move to Echo Ridge, the town where their mother grew up. They don’t call her Mom, just Sadie, because she doesn’t quite grasp the concept of motherhood. It is the end of summer, but their arrival isn’t a bright one. Immediately they are faced with the death of someone in the town – a high school teacher down on a hit and run. Ellery’s detective brain goes into overdrive as she tries to figure out the who, the what and the why… a defence mechanism she has grown accustomed to ever since her inquisitive mind asked Sadie about her dead aunt who went missing in Echo Ridge on the night of homecoming in 1995.

Then, five years ago, homecoming queen, Lacey Kilduff, was murdered in the town’s infamous theme park, Murderland. Now, the killer is back as the hooded figure who threatens to take the lives of this year’s popular girls. Ellery has her work cut out, but as the terror snowballs, she finds herself lose control of her detective distance and fall into a place where she can’t distinguish fact between fiction.

The story alternates between Ellery’s point of view and another: Malcolm’s. He is the same age as Ellery and very much entwined in the spider’s web of trauma that happened five years ago. His older brother, Declan, was prime suspect for Lacey’s murder and although he was never charged, Echo Ridge always pinned him as the cold-blooded killer. After all, it’s always the boyfriend – at least according to Ellery.

The form of alternate viewpoints sets the reader up to a crucial part of the story, if a little predictable. However, it also sets us up for another part… one you will not see coming… unless you use your detective skills and analyse every single word and action of a particular character. I loved the use of alternate viewpoints. It illustrates the ongoing events from two perspectives. Firstly, it portrays the story from initially, an outsider’s point of view, that being Ellery’s. As the story goes on her emotional connection to the loss of her aunt and an obligation to protect the other girls of Echo Ridge makes her central to the hideous events. Plus, she is threatened herself. The second point of view is that of a victim of a different kind. Malcolm has lived in his brother’s dark shadow for the majority of his life. He is under constant scrutiny despite never doing a single thing wrong. He always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as though somebody is lurking close, just waiting for one single moment to pin Malcolm as killer. He wants to find out who the murderer is just as much as Ellery and they both get more than what they bargained for.

I read this alone in my new house at night. I could see out into the pitch black of my back garden, but that was all I could see. I couldn’t see if anyone was lurking, if anyone was in shadow. Of course, there wasn’t… I hope, and so I had goose bumps under my skin as the hair stood on end at the nape of my neck. Whilst reading this book, getting closer and closer to the finale, I began to read quicker and quicker, needing to know who the murderer was. When I found out, I was shocked, but I thought there would have been a little more to it. There was something that didn’t quite satiate my expectations. Perhaps it was the final rush that this was the murderer and that was that, or the fact that some character morals were so thwarted they weren’t believable, or that others were so blind to the truth that stared them in the face. I felt like there could have been more, especially with how many young women were killed in cold blood – more of a character development of the murderer him/herself and a more substantial reason behind the killings themselves. Nevertheless, the very last six words more than made up for it all. They shook me to the core, and I was left aghast with goose pimples everywhere and shivers up and down my spine.

Two Can Keep A Secret is an easy read with enough twists to keep you hooked and characters that you will root for and those you will want to see lost in the dark depths of Murderland.

Love, Faye xo

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