Secrets by Barbara WinkesSecrets by Barbara Winkes is a shorter length mystery with a touch of age gap romance.

Marsha Taylor is a woman looking for some space to deal with the way her life has gone badly wrong. Jessie just seems like trouble from the moment she falls into Marsha’s life. Marsha knows Jessie is running from something or someone, but her conscience (and attraction to Jessie) nags at her enough that she has to help. So when the hitch-hiking younger woman asks to join Marsha, they embark on a road trip to get away from whatever demons are chasing them.

When Marsha and Jessie end up stranded in the middle of nowhere, Jessie’s demons appear to take a human form, and Marsha finds herself drawn into a recent murder that has all of the locals on edge.

What secrets do the people of Diamond Lake hold? And what about Marsha and Jessie? Everyone has secrets. Some of them are deadly.

The Characters

A failed cop turned PI, Marsha is bitter. And desperate to escape life for a moment to reevaluate her direction. Marsha is a character that goes through a lot of inner turmoil, both with her personal situation alluded to at the start of the book, and also with her growing attraction to the much younger Jessie. Despite all of this, she is likeable, and I got the sense she was somewhat of the underdog in life. Which only serves to make her more likeable.

Jessie is a girl with a past, a secret, and a desperate need to find someone to make her feel safe. Winkes has done a great job of making her seem young and naïve, while still having lived somewhat more than her years would usually allow. I found Jessie hard to relate to, as she is exactly what Barbara Winkes promised, a woman who holds many secrets.

The Writing Style

In typical Barbara Winkes style, this book has many twists and changes of direction. Perhaps not quite as dark as some of her other books, Secrets nevertheless delivers exactly what the name suggests. Written in third person, we get to follow the antagonist on his journey as well, though he remains anonymous obviously until the end. Not an especially lengthy book, Secrets packs a swift thriller punch with a dash of romance.

The Pros

Secrets is an “all at once, won’t take long so don’t put it down” kind of read. Winkes is a masterful mystery writer with her books full of plot twists and climactic surprises, and Secrets is no exception.

The Cons

This is a shorter book for a thriller, and that means the characters are slightly less developed than some readers will like.

The Conclusion

Secrets is a quick, punchy read from Barbara Winkes with her usual well-constructed mystery. While the characters are less developed than usual because of the length of the book, both protagonists are complex and full of secrets and layers that are intimated at throughout. The dash of romance doesn’t detract from the suspense storyline, and there are enough surprises to make this book one you should not miss.

Excerpt from Secrets by Barbara Winkes

“Hey, I found you, awesome, thank God.”

Before she could correct the obvious mistake, the woman leaned down to kiss her cheek and then straightened to sit down across from her. Marsha stared at her, wondering if she was having a rather absurd dream. There was a possible explanation for it. If her frustrations translated into hallucinations already, she was indeed in a bad place.

“I guess this is the moment where I should tell you that you’re mistaking me for someone else?” she asked sarcastically. It wasn’t the woman’s fault. Marsha had just been a little too aware of the scent of her perfume and the softness of her lips against her cheek. She let out a sigh.

“Oh, no. Sorry about that.” Her hair was a dark chocolate brown, strands escaping her ponytail to frame her pretty face. She looked like a college student, little older than a freshman, with her battered backpack. She wore shorts, a tank top, and white shoes. For all her excited chattering, she appeared tired. Marsha had an instant and visceral reaction thinking about her hitting the road all by herself. It might be patronizing. She’d seen proof the world wasn’t so kind.

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