Tami Hoag, Secrets to the Grave

Posted May 16, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Secrets to the Grave (Oak Knoll, #2)Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag
Series: Oak Knoll, 2
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second in the Oak Knoll suspense series revolving around Vince and Anne Leone in the town of Oak Knoll in California.

My Take
Oh, boy, talk about suspenseful. I actually started to suspect whodunnit, but I wouldn’t have guessed the whydunnit. It was certainly an interesting look inside the head of behaviorists! And a very sad look at the difficulties involved in telling a four-year-old that her mother has died.

I just loved this quote. For such a “misfit”, Zander is amazingly perceptive:

Her perception is her reality. She doesn’t understand who I am. People fear what they don’t understand.

I think Morgan is purposely self-destructing. As for Vince, he so loves rubbing it into Mendez that he got to Anne first…it’ll crack ya up. Milo’s bigotry at the hospital is good for a laugh as well. Hard to believe people actually think this way…??

What is with the cops? Vince has someone on her doorstep to protect her, and he’s useless.

Hoag comes at you with such soft whiplashes…you’ll sit stunned and reread those sections over several times just trying to grasp what she’s revealing. A very realistic writer, Hoag blends the homey with the horrific and peoples her story with mostly pleasant people. Admittedly, some of them have issues, but they are real characters. The kind of people most of us know in our own lives. It certainly makes her bad guys stand out! It also brings home the horror when some seemingly normal person is revealed as, well, not so normal. That poor kid, Dennis. Jesus, the best thing for him would be a quick bullet to the head, yet I feel so sorry for the kid. Reading between the lines of how trapped he feels, how unloved… Hoag is good at pulling at those heartstrings.

However, would someone please take out Anne’s dad? It would be fascinating to learn what his childhood had been like to form such a character as his.

The Story
A woman’s body is discovered on her kitchen floor, her almost-dead daughter draped over her. The mutila…multilat…the mutilations are horrific. The things done to the daughter… Tony asks Anne to visit Haley at the hospital in her role as a special advocate, feeling that Anne’s past experience and her education in child psychology can only help. And so it proves. Where, despite Vince’s protests and the pissing contest between Milo and Maureen, the judge almost gleefully awards temporary custody to Anne.

Now it’s up to the police, Vince, and Anne to solve the case and coax a witness statement from a very small, very traumatized little girl. Asides of the crime finds those friends of Marissa’s also suffer new, additional traumas. Milo and her dramas. Gina and her disappearance. The secrets harbored that are revealed. The extortion.

And Mendez is falling in love.

The Characters
Anne Navarre Leone is happy in her marriage, but still suffers terribly from her kidnapping. On the bright side, she’s finally pursuing her child psychology degree. And NOT living with her jerk of a dad! Vince Leone is an FBI agent and behavioral specialist who has stayed on in Oak Knoll to help finish off the case from Deeper Than the Dead. He plans to quit the FBI when the case is complete and do some consulting, some lecturing, in the meanwhile, he donates his time to the sheriff’s department in his new home town. He and Anne got married and they are enjoying their time together. Their experiences have taught them to grab on to life with both hands. Fran Goodsell is Anne’s best friend and a kindergarten teacher at Anne’s old school. He’s quite a cheeky friend and is so happy for Anne.

Detectives Tony Mendez and Bill Hicks are on the scene. Cal Dixon is the county sheriff. Trammel and Hamilton are fellow cops. Tom Scott is the leader of the Search and Rescue teams.

Marissa Fordham is an artist and a single mother with a four-year-old daughter Haley. A woman who did not exist four years ago. Her arts patron Milo Bordain has supported her generously for as long as Marissa existed. She’s been seen with Don Quinn, one of Steve’s fellow lawyers at the firm; Steve Morgan; and, Mark Foster, the head of the music department at McAster. Gina Kemmer is Marissa’s best friend. And one with a deadly secret.

Everything in life is about Milo Bordain; she’s the supreme egotist. It’ll blow your mind as to her response to Haley’s traumas…un. be. liev. able. Her husband is more prosaic and both are clueless about their son Darren who runs the family Mercedes car dealerships—his parents, well, his mother in particular, are pressuring him to run for political office. No love lost in this family. The woman from Child Protective Services, Maureen Upchurch, is overly irked as well. Humph.

Dennis Farman is the now-12-year-old sociopath from Deeper Than the Dead. All that remains of his dysfunctional family. Another argument for licensing parents. And a scary look inside the head of a destroyed child. Dr. Peter Crane is in jail awaiting his trial for kidnapping and assault. Sara Morgan and her daughter Wendy are trying to come to terms with what happened as well even as Steve Morgan drifts further and further away. Jane Thomas is the head of the Thomas Center for Women.

Arthur Buckman is the president of McAster College. Dr. Alexander Zahn is a socially challenged mathematics professor who found the body. Rudy Nasser is his teaching assistant. Caregiver. Errand runner.

The Cover
The cover gleams with its royal blue sky studded with clouds within its frame of bare trees with a flight of birds taking off into the distance.

I think the title refers to the secret shared by Marissa and Gina. Marissa certainly took her Secrets to the Grave.

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