The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
I'll admit: what attracted me to this book above others with similar storylines is the unique element that one of the protagonists, Tyler, is a 14 year old boy with Xeroderma pigmentosum. I'm often fascinated by unique and rare medical conditions, and I like it when a book I'm reading includes elements like this that make me better understand what it must be like for someone with such a condition.
I have a little wishlist for things I'd like to have seen in this book:
The victim, Amy, might have spent more time on stage before her death. I'm not masking her death as a spoiler because it happens almost immediately. But we really know nothing about her when she dies, which made me less emotionally invested in finding out what really happened to her. In parts of this this book, one knows that the book is really less about her death than it is about the dynamics in Tyler's family and the things that happen in the dark in his neighborhood, but it is a murder mystery, essentially, so I wanted more reason to care about the victim. In fact, between reading the scene in which she does show up, and then picking up the book to finish it, about twelve hours lapsed in my world, and when Amy was mentioned again I thought, "Wait, have we met her yet?" We hear about Amy and what she was like a bit, through the points of view of the other characters, but this is certainly my least favourite way to hear about a victim, as it is, of course, always coloured by the other character's opinions. I wanted to form my own opinion of her.
Throughout the book, I was frequently disoriented by the transitions. In one scene, for example, Tyler is in his room, yearning to go out into the night, and then the next thing we know, he's actually out there, interacting with a neighbor, with no transition from one place to the other. This happened multiple times, with different characters and scenes, and I found it confusing trying to orient myself as to where we were and who we were with. I did read an ARC of this book, so these transitions could have been adjusted by today's publication.
Although a lot of the attraction to the book was about this boy with XP sneaking out to spy on his neighbors, I had some difficulty believing that his mother, who is very militant about controlling his every move would never sense his sneaking out so frequently at night. Also, Tyler sneaks out into the dark and explores his neighborhood and surrounding areas in the middle of the night with little to no fear, but when threatened that he's going to be left home alone in the middle of the day, he worries about it.
Despite a couple reservations, I enjoyed this mystery. Lots of red herrings, and such a claustrophobic feel, both for Tyler and his mother's situations, but also in the general neighborhood. It felt all about denial, to me: denial of literal things that have happened, denial of what is happening, denial of what will happen. Although I know other readers have felt that the characterizations weren't strong enough and I can sense what they mean, I also felt that the motivations for each character were well developed and plausible.
This was my first read by Carla Buckley. She's come across my radar before, but I hadn't had the chance to read her before Random House allowed me an ARC through Netgalley. I do intent to read her books again; she already has an intriguing backlist...