I am in awe of authors, like Jo Spain, who can juggle so many characters and plot threads and write a story that never feels muddled or cluttered. From both thinking of the back stories of 13 characters (as is the case here) and being able to execute them in such a clear, enticing way, Dirty Little Secrets is a very impressive murder mystery.
Irish author Jo Spain actually came to my attention through reading other author interviews. She was recommended a few times as a great thriller writer and, loving learning about new authors like this and feeling in the mood for a mystery thrill, I downloaded this audiobook. Narrator Michele Moran, by the way, was brilliant – adding depth and excitement in all the right places.
A first for me
Dirty Little Secrets is the first novel I’ve read (well, listened to) where one of the characters narrating is actually the one that was murdered. Olive Collins is found dead in her house – but only after she has been left to rot for three months. None of her neighbours on the exclusive Withered Vale gated estate where she lives noticed that she had died.
Their dirty little secrets would be exposed.
And this is when the secrets start to unravel. Detectives Frank and Emma, both very likeable characters, start the process of interviewing Olive’s neighbours and slowly but very enticingly, all their stories are revealed.
A masterclass in tension building
As we learn about her fractured relationships, it turns out that Olive was never in line for any best neighbour awards . From Ron who was closer to Olive than most people knew, to the Solankes whose easy-going image is about to be shattered, to the elusive Ed and Amelia and Alison and Holly, I really enjoyed all of the separate little back stories and learning how they all tied back to Olive.
Olive is an unusual character actually, she is not liked but sometimes you sort of feel sorry for her, in a more socially awkward way but then she does something downright awful. She does indeed have her moments, which is what makes the story so compelling.
As there were tensions brewing between Olive and practically all of her neighbours, you just couldn’t second guess the ending of Dirty Little Secrets, which, as we all know, is the sign of a truly great murder mystery.