Last night I stayed up late and finished Emily Carpenter’s outstanding new novel Every Single Secret. It’s a psychological thriller set in Georgia that focuses on an engaged couple, Daphne and Heath, who both have damaged, dark pasts. Heath has violent nightmares, she has anxiety. In an effort to curb his nightmares, Heath suggests they visit an eccentric therapist in the mountains who has an excellent reputation but non-traditional methods. For instance, you check into his mansion for a week and agree to being filmed in your bedroom. Patients can’t speak to each other nor enter the house’s private zones. Definitely not the usual approach. Daphne and Heath go for it anyway, determined to get through the last troubles of their relationship before they marry.
A Page-Turning Puzzle
Of course, not everything is at seems. Daphne begins to uncover inconsistencies that alarm her. She befriends a fellow patient despite strict no fraternizing rules. She explores forbidden areas. All of this leads to more and more disconcerting discoveries while dredging up Daphne’s own disturbing past. Carpenter masterfully ends most chapters with a hook or reveal that propels the reader to turn the page. I did.
Overall, that’s the strongest argument for reading this book. It’s compelling and mysterious. We want to know what is going on with this odd therapist who seems removed and rationale but is willing to have a glass of wine with Daphne. We wonder about her fiancé’s seemingly nice but maybe aggressive behavior. We even wonder about the bizarre decor in the fireplaces and the surrounding creepy natural setting. Daphne discovers a lot of strange clues that are mystifying. If you like Gone Girl or Girl on a Train, you will like this book.
The novel has a couple of minor weaknesses. First, and it sounds small but it’s actually key, you have to buy into the idea that a therapist would film people in their bedrooms. The story doesn’t offer much clinical explanation for why that’s necessary. And anyone who’s seen a therapist knows that filming a patient in private is not only an extreme ethical violation but therapeutically damaging. People in vulnerable states need to feel safe. Filming them does not make them feel safe. So that a therapist would exist who would even broach that was difficult for me to buy into. Related to that, the book’s message, perhaps unintentionally, took a swipe at psychological treatment and therapists.
The other tiny difficulty I had was in the timeline. There are essentially three time periods Carpenter jumps back and forth into. At first, they’re confusing. I needed several chapters to get into the book’s rhythm, but once I did, the switches were fine. So if you pick this book up, be prepared for that.
A Strong Suspenseful Story
Overall, Every Single Secret is a masterfully crafted thriller, both surprising and horrifying at its end. Emily Carpenter weaves a suspenseful story with distinct characters, an atmospheric setting, and fast-moving plot that keeps you wondering. It’s a work of great imagination to have created this story around a “retreat” meant to heal people but ultimately does the opposite. An impressive read.
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Karen Hugg is a writer and gardener living in the Seattle area. She is a certified ornamental horticulturalist and Master Pruner. When not digging in the dirt, she writes. She's been published in various journals, anthologies, websites, and more. Her life is happily hectic but she's lucky to have a patient husband and sweet children. Her pets aren't bad either. To learn more, explore http://www.karenhugg.com.