Marissa Fordham was a talented artist in the town of Oak Knoll, California. She was beautiful and dated frequently but not seriously; was well regarded in her community and had a few good friends. Marissa had an idyllic life with her little girl Haley, until one morning a neighbor found her brutally murdered and her daughter fighting for her life.
Detective Tony Mendez, a potential recruit for the FBI, and Vince Leone, a former FBI’s Crime Investigator now consulting with Oak Knoll’s Sheriff Office, started the investigation with very few clues. The crime itself appeared to be of a personal nature and Marissa’s dating list provided a list of potential suspects. However, Haley Fordham, who was recovering in the hospital, was a witness to the crime and expected to ID the perpetrator.
The only problem is that Haley’s subconscious had stored away the memories and only an expert in child psychology could retrieve them with the least damage possible. Enters Anne Leone, a former teacher, now a child advocate who herself had been the victim of a serial kidnapper and killer a year prior. Under Anne’s careful promptings, Haley starts to surrender bits and pieces of the day her mother was killed, which eventually puts them both in the path of Marissa’s killer.
I really liked this book. The characters are utterly human, multidimensional, with dark and light natures. I liked the banter going on at the Sheriff’s Office: it was funny and distracted at times from the gritty plot. The story was magnetic, compulsively readable, true detective’s work in the pure sense of the phrase. The mystery endured for most of the book. I tried hard to anticipate without success the curveballs Hoag threw at the reader.
Overall, Secrets to the Grave is a very accomplished murder mystery. I want to read more by this author.