We’re in the quiet little Australian town of Haven Bay for this psychological thriller. Max and Rennie are driving to a friend’s birthday bash when they’re involved in a near-collision. The boy racer in the other car has attitude and flips them off as he drives away at speed. Another close call and best forgotten.
But no, this little incident is about to expand exponentially. As the couple arrive at their destination, boy racer is there too. His ego has been dented and he’s seemingly out for revenge. After much posturing between the two males, Rennie manages to get Max away from the problem and into the party. Problem over.
Or is it? Because when Max then vanishes without trace, Rennie is certain that the young hothead is behind it. And the subsequent discovery of blood spots on the car park outside the party venue just adds to her misgivings. So far, so run of the mill for crime readers.
But wait, Jaye Ford has more in store for us! Both Rennie and Max are harbouring deep, dark secrets. First off, Rennie’s real name is Kat. She’s been on the move for years, flitting from place to place with her sister, Jo, running away from the horrors of their past. Has it finally caught up with her again? Was she wrong to think Haven Bay would live up to its name and keep her safe? Was she wrong to fall in love and hope for a trouble-free future?
Seems like the answer is yes on all counts, particularly when someone lifts up a rock and all of Max’s wrongdoings come crawling out. He’s a man with a past too, and just lately he’s been siphoning off heaps of money from the family business. Was Rennie wrong to trust him, after all?
As she ponders her past, present and future, the narrative skips to show a different perspective. It turns out that Max hasn’t run off, after all. He’s being held prisoner in an unknown location. He is injured and disorientated and in the dark both literally and figuratively. Who has done this to him? And why?
There are myriad crime novels featuring central characters running away from previous misdemeanours, but few are as haunted – and haunting – as Rennie. As she ponders whether to pack her little backpack once more and disappear as she has done so many times before, there is one thing holding her back… Max. She loves him and can’t believe he is as black as he’s being painted by his cousin and business partner James. Should she trust her instincts and stay put, or is sister Jo right in telling her to cut and run?
There’s a pleasing rhythm to Blood Secret, a to-ing and fro-ing that’s almost hypnotic – until the floodgates open and revelations batter you from all sides. Be ready for the unexpected! In the midst of it all are Rennie and Max, two damaged people who thought they had found salvation in each other. Chuck some other well rounded characters in the midst – like Pav, a restaurant owner with hidden depths; prickly, trust-nobody Jo; and Max’s teenage son Hayden, who turns up out of the blue with a truckload of issues of his own in tow – and you’re all set for an entertaining ride.
So, how to sum up this one? Blood Secret is a sharply rendered story that fair flies along in a pleasing page-turning frenzy. The finale when it comes is maybe a tad overcooked, but overall this is a tasty dish to tickle the tastebuds as we take our first foray into a new reading year.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars