Dark Secret by Janice Frost earns a 4 star rating as being book two in the crime thriller series starting DI Jim Neal and DS Ava Merry. It stands alone though it does reference the action from the first book, Dead Secret. The book starts out with the murder of former stuntman Gray Mitchell whose friends and lover all become suspects as well as key characters in the progression of the novel from the onset.
Merry is introduced as the first detective to take ownership of Gray’s murder case by chapter three -It was interesting to see the story start out with the murder, plot progression, and immersion of the reader into the story before introducing the reader to the detectives who will lead the investigation.- and she is immediately more interesting than the background characters introduced before her. There’s more development to her which fleshes her out very well. She’s driven, career-oriented, yet has a feminine side as well as a devotion to her younger brother who lives with her. Ava Merry is the kind of heroine who is easy to root for when it comes to who will solve the case?
Neal shows up almost in the same breath as Merry. A Scot with more of a taciturn demeanor, his most redeeming features are his aversion to unpleasant smells at crime scenes and his love for his son who is raising alone for reasons undisclosed in this book. Neal works methodically to unravel the case in pieces. He steers the direction of the book as much as the investigation which makes him a solid lead character.
Overall, there is an attention to detail which is carried throughout and the plot is omnipresent. The focus of Dark Secret is finding the murderer before the murderer kills all those involved in the small circle of friends who surrounded our initial victim, Gray Mitchell. Chapters alternate between suspects, Merry, and Neal which gives the reader a 360 degree view of the case. It was a unique feature fans of the crime genre should enjoy. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a crime thriller as a solid read worthy of a four star rating.