Cate Holahan

Book Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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One Little SecretOne Little Secret by Cate Holahan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

One Little Secret is the second novel written by Cate Holahan that I’ve read. Part mystery and thriller, it tells the story of six neighbors (three couples) who rent a house on the eastern shores of Long Island for part of the summer. As each chapter unfolds in third person perspective, we learn of the drama transpiring in their individual and combined households.

This book was a very easy read. I devoured it in two chunks over a twenty-four hour period, finding myself unwilling to put it down except for meals and priorities that I couldn’t skip out on. The characters are vivid, realistic but with a slight caricature-like tendency, and will clearly show their motivation for each move they make. Holahan has weaved clever tension beyond just the normal marital problems of infidelity and monotonous boredom. At times, I thought these people were all horrible, yet at others, I saw moments of intimacy and pain that provoked sentimental feelings for them.

Given where they rented a summer home, it’s obvious they came from money, though some try to indicate they do not. Doctors, lawyers, tech start-ups, and sports reporters earn a lot in this world, so be prepared for a high amount of affluence and the drama that comes with it. From the start in the prologue where someone is being pushed under water, you know there is a secret worth protecting, but which of the six is the victim and which is the murderer is the game you’ve signed on to play when you picked up this book. Love it!

By 15% in, all the major clues are dropped. We know the victim’s hair color or body type, then one by one the author described the six people so that it became obvious who died. The detective from the Suffolk County police force is also a key focus, as she’s called to scene of this crime and another one which has a connection we’ve yet to realize. It’s also personal for the detective given her young daughter was innocently sucked into a party gone wrong, and that party was attended by one of the six house guests.

My favorite aspect of the book is how the story alternates across three days–day before, day of, and day after. There are flashbacks, and information dropped about the past, but the critical elements are what’s not being said in conversations and which neighbor has a connection we don’t understand to someone else. I adore that suspense, especially trying to guess not only who but what happened.

Overall, I waffled between a 4 and 4.5 stars, but settled on the higher rating. There were a few items that needed a better closure or clarity, so I couldn’t give it a perfect rating. The ending was apropos, but I felt like the detective lingered in the story and made too many mistakes. I didn’t always believe she was smart enough to solve the puzzle and felt like a distraction to the story. It was minor, but enough that I noticed it. Also, we didn’t get enough time with the victim to understand exactly who (s)he was as a person and parent. I felt bad for the death, but one or two more scenes to show the vibrant life and charisma once held would’ve made it pop even more.

Holahan’s writing style is engaging and has a stellar fluidity that makes you believe you’re standing in the rental house or on the beach as everything occurs around you. I look forward to her next book as it will be at the top of my reading list.

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Book Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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3+ out of 5 stars to Lies She Told, a thriller set to be released on September 12th by Cate Holahan. I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to sharing this review with you.


Why This Book 
Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, the publisher, for sending me this copy to read and review in advance as an ARC. They found me on Goodreads based on my reading tastes, reviews and ratings, suggesting this as a potential book I might find engaging. And they were right. I had it sitting on the shelf for a few weeks as I got through other books, but as all my NetGalley reads aren’t due until September, I had some time to squeeze this one in.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Welcome to the concept of a book within a book… The primary story revolves around Liza Cole, an author living in the NYC metro area who’s had some good books and some not so good books. She’s been given a deadline to get the next one written since she won’t first draft an outline, which prompts her to dive head first into her own thrilling plot. While she’s writing the book, readers learn Liza’s trying to conceive a baby with her husband, David, but they’ve been unsuccessful due to a few issues she’s had in the past with uterine damage. David’s best friend, Nick, is presumed missing, which is setting off a few alarm bells. David starts worrying when they can’t find Nick and he’s being suspected of causing the disappearance. Eventually, his body is found in the East River, dying in a very similar way to the character in Liza’s book. Liza’s supported by her mother, agent Trevor and best friend, Chris.

In Liza’s story, her primary character, Beth, is a new stay-at-home mom who suspects her husband, Jake, is cheating on her. When she secretly monitors his behavior, Beth learns he has been spending a lot of time with a cop named Colleen. When she accuses her husband, he forces her to go to therapy, where Beth meets Tyler, a therapist who attempts to get her to realize she needs to end the marriage. Unfortunately, Beth isn’t ready and soon finds herself stalking Colleen. Next thing she knows, she’s killing Colleen and dumping her body in the East River, then sleeping with Tyler.

As the two stories begin weaving in and out, readers learn there are common things occurring in both, leaving us to question which one is real and which one is a story. Or perhaps… it’s all the same story happening from different perspectives. You don’t really know until the last few chapters when the random clues begin fitting together, revealing what has actually been happening along the path.

Approach & Style 
I read the paperback version sent to me by the publisher. It’s just under 300 pages, broken into three sections and alternating back and forth between the two story lines. There are 19 chapters, each dividing into two sub-chapters: (1) Liza and (2) Beth. As a result, chapters are relatively short, usually under 8 pages each. Both stories are told with first-person narration from the main female character’s point of view, and both are told in the present tense. I read the book over 3 days, about 100 pages each day.

The concept of the book is great. I love trying to solve not only the mystery within the novel, but also determining how the two stories would eventually link together and which was fake. I enjoy seeing parallels between the two lead characters and their families. The emotional aspects of the characters are strong and offer readers an easy connection. You can understand the pain and feel the impact of the actions happening around them. It’s full of suspense, some very descriptive scenes and lots of potential suspects and angles.

It was a hard read, and I’m normally good at keeping story lines separated. A few things that could have worked differently, which would have helped readers retain which characters belong in which section, as well as distinct from one another. Character names were too similar: Beth and Liza. I know this is supposed to help with the parallels, but it left you a tad confused at times. Jake and David. Sound a bit similar. Go with two very different options to help us keep it straighter. Something long, something short. I had to stop and start a lot. I don’t like to re-read the same thing over and over again. But I was OK here as it was a complex story, plotted out in a good way.

The ending came a bit from out of left field. You can guess the connection between reality and the made-up story, but why it happened was very unexpected. There were a few clues, but we needed more to not be fully surprised. I would have liked to be reading it and go “oh, now I understand how it ties all together.” Instead I went “Hmm… there were no clues of this before…” It wasn’t too much of a distraction, but it was enough to make me think the book needed another round of editing before its release. Add in a few more connected pieces of history. Make me impressed with the things I missed along the way.

Author & Other Similar Books 
The author has two other books prior to this one. I might give them a chance, depending on the plot and setting. I’ve read another book in the last few years like this one, but I can’t recall the title. It’s not a common story where there is 1 real story and 1 fake story an author is writing, which makes it a different type of read. You’re sure to be excited and thrilled at parts, but you will also be confused at some parts.

Questions & Final Thoughts 
The author can certainly write. She has a good eye for characters, setting and details. I’m glad the publisher sent this one to me, as I definitely found myself wanting to read it each night. But it was also one where I stopped a lot to check if the story had an error or if it was being written in a vague way on purpose. Overall, good book… lots of complexity in the details… good supporting characters and a treasure of relationship drama that you find quite engaging. Put it through another round of beta readers or editing and it would have been an easy 4 from me.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.