"Our Little Secret: a Novel" (St. Martin's Press), by Roz Nay
Ten years ago, in the little town of Cove, Vermont, a quiet girl named Angela Petitjean fell in love with the dashing captain of the high school swim team. Now, Angela stews in the local police station, stonewalling a series of grim detectives who want to know if she can explain why her first love's wife, Saskia, has gone missing.
Their questions suggest they have a list of preconceptions they are trying to check off. This, Angela is certain, is no way to get at the truth.
Finally, when Detective Novak takes a turn, Angela asks: "Do you really want to know what happened?" He does, so over the next 255 pages, she tells him — everything.
"Our Little Secret," a debut novel by Roz Nay, superficially resembles Paula Hawkins' "The Girl on a Train" and similar psychological thrillers that have stormed the best-seller lists in the last decade. But Nay's work transcends the subgenre. The plot is more textured and heartbreaking, and her prose contains startling turns of phrase that reveal the soul of a poet.
As Angela speaks, it becomes apparent that she is odd. Perhaps haunted. The reader can't help but wonder how much of her tale is true.
She begins when her family moves to town, settling in a house "that was sad and gray and looked hunched, like it was coughing." Her parents, whose ambitions had gone unrealized, were living vicariously through her. Her father's good intentions, she says, "held all of his own life's ruin."
Shutting them out, she finds friendship, and then her "soul mate," in the swim team captain. They talk of marriage, but after graduation, she spends a year studying at Oxford. When she returns, Saskia has taken her place.
Angela has never been able to let it go.
As she prattles on, Novak grows impatient, interrupting with questions. Is Saskia alive? Did Angela harm her? In the end, she provides the answers — but only in the final sentence of this remarkable novel.
___ Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."