2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 260 books.

Books Review: The Secrets We Bury and The Lies We Tell (The Undertaker’s Daughter series) by Debra Webb

This series was a GREAT find. When I was contacted about reviewing it I noticed this was the second-in-series. The publisher graciously sent me the first so that I would be able to follow the storyline – from the opening pages of that first book, I was hooked.

As with so many thrillers, it’s tough to write a review that details what I like about each book with specifics but without giving anything away. Because the teasing out of the details, large and small, is so essential to what made these excellent reads for me, I’m going to give you the publisher descriptions of each book instead of lots of specifics. That way you know what you’re getting into without my accidentally giving you clues that are better left uncovered within the course of reading. I will wrap up with my overall thoughts though, as those apply to both books (and the prequel novella, The Undertaker’s Daughter, which sets out how Rowan and Julian find themselves as opponents) equally.

Book One: The Secrets We Bury
Doctor Rowan Dupont knows death. She grew up surrounded by it in her family’s Victorian funeral home, and it’s haunted her since the day her twin sister drowned years ago. Between her mother’s subsequent suicide and the recent murder of her father, coming home to run the funeral home feels fitting—even if it leaves her vulnerable to an obsessive serial killer.

Rowan refuses to let fear keep her from honoring her family. But the more time she spends back in Winchester, Tennessee, the more she finds herself questioning what really happened that fateful summer. Had her sister’s death truly been an accident? And what pushed their mother to take her own life? The dark lake surrounding Rowan’s hometown holds as many secrets as the bodies that float in its chilling depths. But Rowan is running out of time if she’s going to uncover the truth before somebody sinks her for good.

Book Two: The Lies We Tell
Doctor Rowan Dupont knows a serial killer is coming for her. Julian Addington has been waiting. Watching. And it’s only a matter of time before he strikes. But what Julian doesn’t know is that Rowan is ready for him. And more than anything she wants answers. How well did the depraved killer actually know her mother? And how many lies have been spun in the years since she took her own life?

Working alongside her childhood friend Police Chief Billy Brannigan, Rowan is determined to get to the bottom of her mother’s puzzling suicide once and for all—even if it means exposing an unsettling past. It certainly seems like her family’s Victorian funeral home has borne witness to more than one dark secret, but when a recent double homicide leads to an even grislier discovery, separating the truth from the lies might be the last thing Rowan does.

My Overall Impressions of the Series
There’s a gritty darkness here that you often find in these types of thrillers, but that is somehow magnified in this case. I don’t know if it’s the twin factor, the best friend who turns out to be an even scarier breed of serial killer (I didn’t know such a thing was possible, but it is!), or the atmospherics that Webb has crafted around her characters, but something makes these particular spine-tingling for me. The interplay between past and present secrets is definitely a component; Webb teases the reader with revelations buried in seemingly innocuous details, and the suspense throughout is top-notch.

The novella and first book did have a few spots in which things felt rushed, like someone told the author she had to wrap it all up already and put her pencil down… This was particularly true in the novella, in which the background was developing at a slow, steady burn and then – BAM! – exploded and resolved itself (as much as it does) in a handful of pages. The writing and pacing definitely smoothed out by the second full book, and I thought things read much more consistently, vis-a-vis detail and revelation – in that book. Webb is definitely honing her style to a knife’s edge – and it that works perfectly for the story and characters.

It’s hard to imagine that things can keep getting worse for Rowan, but they do – and the build feels entirely plausible, even though by rights it probably shouldn’t. I chalk that up to Webb’s talent with details, which smooth over the edges and make this all feel seamless – particularly when it’s at its most violent and horrible. I am definitely looking forward to the next book. This one ended (as did the first) with a Big Reveal, and I can’t wait to see where it takes Rowan – and us readers!

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