Title: Our Little Secret
Expected publication: 28 July 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2
After the murder of his beloved wife Julia, Chris has lost all joy and hope for a better future and has decided to end his life by jumping in front of a train. He has planned it all right down to the last detail: a deserted platform in the middle of the night, a fast moving freight train, no witnesses, no trauma to anyone. Noone would miss him, and no one would have to bear witness to his final desperate act. Except that on the night, things don’t go to plan. A woman arrives on the platform just minutes before the train is due to arrive. And even though Chris tries his best to get rid of her, she refuses to leave. What should he do? Should he still jump and know that the traumatic images of his suicide will haunt this stranger forever?
Sarah’s face is tear-stained as she arrives on the platform late at night. She has just broken up with her boyfriend and her life is a mess. She doesn’t even have enough change for the train ticket, let alone a cup of coffee, so waiting on the dark, windswept platform is her only option. She spots a lone, barefoot stranger standing on the platform, too close to the edge, swaying in the breeze, and recognises in him the same hopeless desperation she feels herself. Tentatively she tries to make contact – and changes both their lives with a simple act of kindness to a stranger.
Apparently, there is an old Chinese proverb that states if you save someone’s life, you become responsible for that person and their actions forever. It’s an interesting premise, and one which would make for a lively discussion after reading Our Little Secret. Sarah is certainly taking her responsibility seriously, tracking down the stranger whose life she unwittingly saved, stalking him, trying to worm her way into his life. I really liked the way O’Sullivan portrayed this damaged woman, whose choice in men is reflected in her own lack of self-worth and despair. Told in alternating chapters from both Sarah’s and Chris’ POV, the story explores the dark places of the human psyche, which would drive a man to seek death as his only option and a woman to seek solace in trying to “fix” the life of a total stranger, whether he wants it or not. Underlying it all is the mystery surrounding Chris’ wife’s death, which has driven him to despair and adds an element of menace and danger underlying the storyline.
Although I had worked out some of the answers fairly early on, I really enjoyed O’Sullivan’s portrayal of his two damaged protagonists and their journey towards the inevitable finale. I really liked the author’s writing style, and his way of introducing little snapshots of his characters’ pasts, which added a constant undercurrent of darkness to the story. Perhaps some clues could have been withheld a bit longer to prolong the mystery for me, but it still kept me interested to the end.
Our Little Secret is a slow-burning psychological thriller exploring the deep dark corners of the human psyche – and how a simple act of kindness to a stranger can change two people’s lives forever. An enjoyable, character-driven debut novel – I look forward to reading more from this author in future.
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.