Secrets can destroy you if you are not careful. Someone has decided to take the lives of his/her victims by creating a special method of mutilation and abuse. What happens when someone is so traumatized in the past that they take it out in the present killing people that were close but hoping to hide their secrets from the past in the present. A psychopathic killer is keeping secrets and in order to prevent them from coming out the killer is making sure that certain people remain silent. Within the pages of this novel the author brilliantly describes the death of three victims in a graphic manner. Each death is depicted as if the killer was recreating a scene of a specific Saint on a stain glass window in a church. Saint Lucy the patron saint of eyes, holding her eyes in her hands. Joan of Arc burned at the stake and Saint Sebastian according to traditional believe was killed during the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians and is depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Joan of Arc was 19 and burned at the state in Rouen by the English on May 30, 1491. She died of smoke inhalation. The Cardinal of Winchester is recorded as having order her to be burnt a second time. Sarah died in the manner of Joan of Arc. Cassandra Doyle’s death mirrored that of Saint Lucy’s and Tim McDougal’s death mirrored that of Saint Sebastian. Who was behind these deaths stems back to these adults as children and attending the Apple Tree Day Care Center and what the owners were accuse of doing to them.
There are many voices that you will hear starting with Holly Devine whose childhood was marred with abuse and molestation. As an adult she seems geared to having as many men in her life yet only superficial relationships except with her father. As you get to know her better you learn that she is a publicist for a major publishing company and at times seems unfocused about helping her authors and more focused on her secrets. Cassandra Coyle was an Indie filmmaker who with Amber and Travis created graphic horror films. When Maura Isles does the autopsy she notices someone unusual that sets her the road to realizing that the bilateral globe enucleation or the cutting out of her eyeballs, did not cause her death but mirrored that of the patron saint of the blind. Timothy McDougal the second’s death might have had three arrows shot into his chest and that mirrors the Patron saint of archers. The film Mr. Simian, was a horror film that this group was creating but Coyle and Timothy and Sarah were victims of abuse 20 years earlier. Martin Stanek is the link to these murders they think as he and his parents were imprisoned for the abuse but did he really do you and why do you get the feeling that the DA framed him and wanted to get her career moving? Backtracking first we learn about Lizzie DiPalma another victim of abuse who took her bicycle road off and was never scene again. Is she dead? Another former student related to this group, Bill Sullivan is now missing and possibly dead. But, harboring within both Maura and Jane are demons of their own ad Alamlthea Lank, Maura’s real mother summons her to her prison cell only to once again manipulate her into doing something for her but not before alluding that she knows more about this case and tells her it’s not what you see it’s what you did not find or see that you are missing. Her family is one she calls one of monsters and she was lucky to have been adopted by the Isles. Whereas, Jane is fighting with the fact that her mother, Angela has reunited with her father Frank, and the situation is unhealthy and Angela just might regret her choice. Maura is astute and is sure that she has discovered the link but before revealing the fact that these Saints have something to do with the murders she calls Daniel, the priest she is loved forever, to confirm what she has discovered. The chemistry is high the feelings and tension are taut and the reader gets the impression that although he promised never to forego his vows even though there is something special between them.
The case spirals in many directions as Holly Devine becomes a prominent source of information related to the abuse of the students at the day care center and the hidden secrets behind what was not yet revealed.
The secrets and lies within each character are enormous as Holly Devine seems too pat in her statements and too vivid in her memory of what she states happened years ago. Questioning her reveals doubts in Rizzoli’s mind and Maura struggles with her mother’s manipulations and finally comes to terms when things are going to be over but will she finally let go and move on with her life allow herself to be happy? Amalthea is psycho and quite astute even though her life is on its last leg trying to coerce her daughter into doubting herself, her instincts but is she pointing her in the right direction to solve the murders? What does I SEE YOU MEAN? What does she mean when she says it’s not what you see it’s what you don’t have or see? While Jane and her mom come to terms with her verbally abusive husband who is self-centered, self-absorbed and is only concerned with his own needs and bragging about his son who thinks he will be the next FBI international agent and hero.
Abuse comes in many ways and those that endure it might need psychological and medical help to deal with what was done to them including support from a mental health specialist. This is an issue that is brought to light within all of the characters, Holly, Jane who went through some torment of her own, Maura through her mother and when you meet one more character you will understand the hidden truth behind why Martin Sander was convicted and how.
Different viewpoints are heard as Jane expresses her thoughts about who is guilty and who was framed and Maura realizes that some things in her life will never change and that taking a risk might be the only way she will be happy. Frost for some reason gravitates back to his wife who uses him as a crutch when she has no one else in her life. Will this relationship remain or stay the course?
As Jane scans all the file folders piled on her desk she the author relates wonders what she missed what detail. Cassandra Coyle and Timothy McDougal, the Newport death of Sarah Basterash and the disappearance of Billy Sullivan in Brookville all of these deaths in three different jurisdictions: Cassandra losing her eyeballs: Saint Lucy: Tim his chest pierced with arrows: Saint Sebastian: Sarah burned to cinders like Joan of Arc: Will they find Billy buried alive like Saint Vitalis?
Holly Devine is the only one alive will she be found with her tongue ripped out like Saint Livinus?
The key just might be the independent horror film and the missing pieces might be on the screen but will they figure this out before it’s too late and other person is killed? The independent film might be not fantasy, fiction but a depiction of something that really did happen and geared to the unusual deaths that the author brilliantly and vividly describes.
Lizzie DiPalma is still missing and Jane pages through her file and wonders if any thing has been done to find her in the present. Searching the grounds of the now defunct Apply Tree Daycare for the remains and the microscopic traces of blood found on the bus and her beaded hat there too, since Stanek was the driver they assume he was the killer. But, Holly’s father decided to silence him for good and someone just might do him too.
Bonnie Sandridge is a newscaster who seems to think Stanek was innocent and is relentless and will stop at nothing even being arrested as being complicit in the murders or working with someone else involved thinking that she might have the answers so why do they think she is lying? Sandridge met Holly at a bar and they arrested her when Holly took a drink from her thinking she spiked it with ketamine.
The issues come through loud and clear as personality disorders which are types of mental health problems where a person’s attitudes, believes and behaviors cause them to have longstanding issues in life. If you look closely at one of the characters you will see that this one does not always think, feel or behave in the same way we do and at times you wonder if they are delusional or think of themselves as untouchable or will never get caught committing a crime. Sometimes you will learn that some of the characters feel and behave causes them problems in their daily lives and are unable to trust others or in this case hiding a secret from the past and will do anything they can to make sure it’s never revealed. Children can be abused, they can be told something over and over again and actually believe the lies they are told and when you hear what they believe and understand the rational behind the killer’s thoughts you will understand how Martin Sanek was convicted and the scary and unholy truth. An ending that will stupefy readers and shock you as the killer approaches someone, uses threats and fear to get this person to be coerced into agreeing to what he wants as the end result. Will the killer prevail? Will someone skate? I KNOW A SECRET! SOMEONE BETTER HOPE I NEVER REVEAL IT! Once again Tess Gerristen delivers suspense, drama, family disloyalties, hate, revenge, lies, deceptions and deceits in a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last startling revelation at the end.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine