Killing Secrets

Nan Vining Mysteries, Book #5

By Diane Emley

ISBN#  9780804178945

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jerjen


For fans of Patricia Cornwell, Tana French, and Lisa Gardner comes a razor-sharp novel of suspense featuring Detective Nan Vining—a single mother whose worlds collide when her teenage daughter stumbles upon a grisly double homicide.

When she gets the call, Nan Vining responds as a mother first and a detective second. Her daughter, Emily, has made a gruesome discovery in a secluded section of a Pasadena park: a pretty, popular young teacher from Emily’s high school and a bright yet troubled transfer student—both dead and bloody in a copse of trees. But the crime scene isn’t the only thing that seems off to Detective Vining. There’s also the cocky classmate who was with Emily in the park—the boyfriend she never knew about. What else doesn’t she know about her daughter?

As she attempts to channel both her maternal and investigative instincts into one single point of focus, Vining’s superiors at the Pasadena Police Department are moving at lightning speed. Before the evidence has even been processed, the case is closed as a clear-cut murder/suicide: a disturbed teenager murders his teacher, then takes his own life. Vining doesn’t buy it. Now she’s chasing dangerous, powerful people with secrets they would kill for—and taking them down means risking her own flesh and blood. (Goodreads)


Nan Vining is a detective for the Pasadena Police Department, who is supposed to be taking some time off from work.  She gets a phone call informing her that her daughter, Emily,  and her boyfriend, Ashton, have found two dead bodies at a secluded teen hangout, called Stoner Glen. Nan is not sure what to be most concerned about: the fact that her daughter found the bodies, that her daughter was at Stoner Glen or that her daughter has a boyfriend that she knew nothing about.  She knows that all those issues will have to be dealt with eventually.

When Nan arrives at the scene, she discovers what appears to be a murder/suicide.  One of Emily’s teachers and a male classmate are both dead.  Nan knows that things are not always as they seem and that these deaths need to be further investigated before the case can be closed.  But her superiors do not share the same views and the case is quickly closed.  After talking to the mother of the dead student and doing some of her own investigating, Nan is not convinced that it was ruled correctly.  She will continue to work the case on her own until she is satisfied that it was closed correctly.  While doing this, she also has to deal with her teenager daughter, who at times becomes defiant, her daughter’s boyfriend, who appears to be a manipulative and spoiled and her superiors who insist the case is solved.  When more dead bodies are found and her daughter’s life is threatened, Nan realizes that this investigation has just turned more deadly.

Killing Secrets is a well crafted mystery suspense that kept me turning pages late into the night.  The mystery is introduced in the very beginning of the book and pulled me along throughout the entire book.  With so many twists and turns and clues dropped along the way, like a breadcrumb trail, I could not read this book fast enough.  The writing style flows smoothly and the book is an easy read.  The author is very talented in using the written word to create suspense and apprehension and I love that.

The characters are well developed, well rounded and three dimensional.  I think the relationship between Nan and her daughter is very realistic and takes place in many households on a daily basis.  Emily seems very real to me, and the fact that one minute she tries to be rebellious and the next she is giving her mom a hug, made me think “yes, that’s how teenagers are”.  I feel like this is very good character development and I appreciate that in books that I read.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well plotted mystery suspense read.  Although this is the fifth book in the series, I did not feel like I needed to read the others to know what was happening in this book.  I have read other books by Diane Emly and have enjoyed them all.  I plan to read all of her books because I think she is a very talented author.