When a cold-case serial killer returns, FBI special agent Fiona Kelly has one last chance to stop him before he claims the prize he’s always wanted—her.
The sight of a goose feather at a murder scene modeled after a children’s poem is enough to make FBI special agent Fiona Kelly’s blood turn to ice. Almost two decades ago, a feather was left with her sister’s body—and with every subsequent victim of the Nursery Rhyme Killer. Now he’s back. Only this time, his latest gruesome murder is a message to the only one who ever got away: Fiona.
Finding “Rhyme” is an obsession that’s fueled Fiona’s career—and destroyed her marriage to fellow FBI agent Asa Kodiak. Now Fiona and Asa have to put their past tensions aside and work together one last time. But Rhyme is watching, and catching this killer may force Fiona to reveal her biggest, darkest secret…the one only he knows.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
Her Darkest Secret by Jessica R. Patch is an edge-of-your-seat serial killer thriller with an unexpected Christian influence.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
The book’s cover is dark and creepy, with a lone figure walking into a spotlight or holding a flashlight. There is an intriguing white feather in the bottom corner. The quote on the cover says, “a taut psychological thriller.” From all that, I expect a dark and creepy psychological thriller. The blurb on the back confirms this impression as it talks about a serial killer called the Nursery Rhyme Killer who leaves a white goose feather at each of his murder scenes, which are all staged to reflect a nursery rhyme or children’s poem. The only thing that struck me as contrary to my impressions is the publisher is called Love Inspired Trade which sounds like more of a romance publisher, and both Amazon and Goodreads label the book as Christian Fiction.
Actual Reading Experience:
The first 80% of this story is compelling and follows Fiona Kelly and her ex-husband, Asa Kodiak. They are FBI agents in pursuit of the Nursery Rhyme Killer, a man who abducted Fiona as a teenager but was never caught. The pace stays mostly fast but occasionally is slowed down by a bit of overwriting. I skimmed through these parts as the details are simply too much and overwhelm the story. They didn’t impact my reading until about the halfway point, so I would consider them a minor interruption to the flow.
I loved the dynamics between all the characters, especially Fiona and Asa. You could tell the history between them is still influencing their current feelings. The other FBI agents on the team provided a different look at the couple’s past, giving the complete picture to the reader. I loved the use of the support characters in developing the main characters.
There are several shocking twists at the end, which I enjoyed and the suspense throughout kept me on the edge of my seat, my attention focused on what would happen next. Even though the pace slowed down at points due to overwriting, the pages often flipped quickly as the suspense built. The third-person narration provided the right amount of omniscience without revealing too much before its time.
The last 20% is when the Christian influence of the story went from a very subtle thread to a more direct one. At what should have been the most suspenseful point in the story, I found myself distracted and thrown out of the suspended disbelief by more of a “preaching the gospel” type language mingled with the height of the suspense actions. The writing at that point switched from a flowing narration to more of the clunky telling I have often found in Christian fiction.
Fiona is bright and strong. She is haunted by her survival from the hands of the Nursery Rhyme killer and is driven by her need to stop the killer once and for all.
Asa is caring, decisive, and a born leader. He has recently been attending church regularly, and that has given him an inner peace he uses to help combat his anger issues. Like Fiona, he is plagued by his choice as a child when a serial killer entered his home and killed his mother.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love thrillers and prefer to read Christian fiction, this is a superb mix of the two genres!