Secrets to the Grave

Secrets to the Grave

3.9 545
by Tami Hoag

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Marissa Fordham is dead, but her daughter is found at the crime scene, injured but alive. Now sheriff's detective Tony Mendez and child advocate Anne Leone begin to peel back the layers of Marissa's life. And the shocking truth they discover puts them directly in the sights of a killer with a stunning secret to keep; because Marissa Fordham never existed...  See more details below


Marissa Fordham is dead, but her daughter is found at the crime scene, injured but alive. Now sheriff's detective Tony Mendez and child advocate Anne Leone begin to peel back the layers of Marissa's life. And the shocking truth they discover puts them directly in the sights of a killer with a stunning secret to keep; because Marissa Fordham never existed...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A horrific murder rocks the town of Oak Knoll, Calif., in the chilling sequel to Hoag's Deeper than the Dead), set in 1986. The victim is 28-year-old artist Marissa Fordham, the single mother of Haley, a four-year-old found partially strangled and barely clinging to life next to her mother's stabbed and mutilated body. Det. Tony Mendez and his capable crew investigate the crime, while child advocate Anne Leone and her husband, former FBI special agent Vince Leone, take temporary custody of Haley. Among the several suspects is attorney Steve Morgan, the estranged husband of Sara Morgan, whose daughter, Wendy, found a victim of the accused See-No-Evil killer, Peter Crane, who's about to go on trial. Adding extra tension are Anne's efforts to help disturbed 12-year-old Dennis Farnham and the disappearance of Marissa's best friend, Gina Kemmer. Newcomers will have no trouble getting into this suspense novel rich in pre-DNA detecting methods. (Dec. 28)
Library Journal
In her sequel to Deeper Than the Dead, Hoag returns to the fictional California town of Oak Knoll circa 1986. Former FBI profiler Vince Leone has remained in the area and is asked by protégé Tony Mendez in the sheriff's office to help out when a single mother is murdered and her four-year-old daughter left for dead. The killing of Marissa Fordham was particularly brutal, and the little girl's call to 911 reported only that "my daddy hurt my mommy." The problem is that little Haley's dad is unknown, and she is too traumatized to provide any further information. Though Vince's new wife, Anne, a child psychologist in training, is helping with Haley, the police have both too many suspects and none who exactly fit the bill. As with the first book in this microseries (the publisher's term), the mid-1980s setting means that the cops can't rely on DNA or computers or any of the new-fangled technologies used by 21st-century detectives. This authorial choice serves the novel well as it gives a solid footing to the police procedural aspects of this thriller. Verdict While the plotting is sometimes a little overworked, Hoag's characterizations remain spot on, and her writing is as exciting as ever. For fans of Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritsen.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI
Kirkus Reviews

The "See-No-Evil" serial killer is jailed awaiting trial, and the last thing Sheriff's Detective Tony Mendez needs is another murder victim, especially a beautiful young woman brutally stabbed and slashed.

Marissa Fordham, a rising young artist and the protégé of the wealthy Milo Bordain, is discovered murdered in her isolated cottage. Haley, her 4-year-old daughter, rests badly injured on her mother's bloody corpse. Mendez catches the case, ably assisted by Vince Leone, a retired FBI profiler who helped solve the "See-No-Evil" mystery. Leone has retired and married a local teacher, Anne Navarre, who was almost murdered by the jailed serial killer. Anne is now studying child psychology and working as a court-appointed special advocate in juvenile cases, and she persuades a reluctant Vince to let her care for Haley. That necessary and time-consuming task deflects her from counseling an apparently psychopathic middle-school student who has stabbed a classmate. Mendez and Leone have more than one suspect in Marissa's brutal murder, even though the victim isn't all—or is more than—she seems to be. Hoag (Deeper Than the Dead, 2009, etc.) again stages her mystery in Oak Knoll, a fictional town somewhere near the beautiful landscape surrounding Santa Barbara and Lompoc, Calif., and her gift for description makes the area come alive. The author also discovers a suitable set of suspects ranging from Bordain's Mercedes-dealer son, a mathematical genius and college professor with Asperger's Syndrome and mother issues, and a prosperous and adulterous attorney who may or may not have been linked to the "See-No-Evil" serial killer. The good guys are less dramatic, although Hoag's character sketches are memorable, right down to minor players like the county sheriff, Cal Dixon.

Fans of literate mysteries will appreciate the complex but realistic story, the satisfying resolution and the descriptive writing.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.32(w) x 7.52(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

November 1986

The house stood by itself back off the road in a field of dried golden grass, half hidden by spreading oaks. An amalgam of styles—part Spanish, part ranch—the once-white stucco building was weathered in a way that made it seem a part of the natural surroundings, as if it had grown up out of the earth and belonged there as much as any of the hundred-year-old trees.

The scene was a plein air painting, soft and impressionistic: the golden grass, the dark trees, bruise-purple mountains in the background, and the whisper-blue sky strewn with long, thin, pink-tinted clouds; the small white house with its old tile roof. On the other side of the mountains the sun had begun its descent toward the ocean. Here, the day seemed to have paused to admire its own perfection. Stillness held the landscape enraptured.

Nothing gave away a hint of what lay within the house.

The driveway was a path of dirt and crushed rock with grass and weeds sprouted up the middle like the mane of a wild pony. Falling down fences the color of driftwood created the lane between two overgrown pastures that had once been home to cattle and horses.

A vintage Woody station wagon well past its glory days was parked at a casual angle near an open shed full of rusted farm equipment. An old Radio Flyer red wagon had been abandoned near the front porch with an orange tabby cat sitting in it, waiting for a ride. On the porch two kittens played peekaboo among overgrown pots of parched geraniums and kitchen herbs. One propped herself up on the screen door and peered into the house, then squeaked and leapt and dashed away, tail straight up in the air.

Inside the house nothing moved but flies.

A horrible still life had been staged on the Saltillo tile kitchen floor.

A woman lay dead, her hair spreading out around her head like a dark cloud. Her skin was the color of milk. Her lips had been painted as red as a rose—as red as her blood must have been as it drained from the wounds carved into her flesh.

She lay discarded like a life-size broken doll—made up, torn up, and cast aside, her brown eyes cloudy and lifeless.

Beside her lay a smaller doll—her child—head resting on her shoulder, face streaked with the last of her mother's life's blood.

The flies buzzed. The wall clock ticked above the sink.

The telephone receiver dangled near the floor, stenciled with small bloody fingerprints. The last words spoken into it were a whisper still hanging in the air: "My daddy hurt my mommy…;"

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Secrets to the Grave 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 545 reviews.
-TESSA- More than 1 year ago
Set in the mid-eighties, the story opens, immediately hitting you in the face with the bloody aftermath of the murder of a single mother where her four year old daughter was left for dead also but she managed to stay alive for two days with her mother's dead body before they were discovered. It's interesting how far we've come in modern technology and it brings it to the fore in this as the crime scene takes so much more to figure it out. There are plenty of plot twists and interesting characters to hold the suspense as the reader tries to figure out who the culprit is. Faced-paced, lots of action, gripping who-dun-it, this one will keep you on the edge of your seat.
BookReviewsByMolly More than 1 year ago
Wow! Another masterpiece by Tami Hoag! Secrets to the Grave, picks up a year after where Deeper Than The Dead left off. Once again, Hoag's readers are instantly transported to Oak Knoll, California where another murder has once again occurred. Tami Hoag brings us another roller coaster suspense novel. Secrets to the Grave is written in a wonderfully detailed style that brings the readers up to date on the murders happening in Oak Know, leaving the story perfect as a stand alone title, or a perfect continuation to Deep Than The Dead. Hoag brings back characters we met in book 1, along with some new characters that really grip the readers' souls. Secrets to the Grave is just as intense with the crime of murder as Deeper Than The Dead was, if not more so. Hoag's ability to create these stories so life like is absolutely powerful. I felt as if I, myself, was trying to escape the "bad daddy" killer. And when I wasn't felling the out-of-breath fear of running from a killer, I was feeling the deep, spine-tingling thrill of trying to figure out the cliff hangers and who-dun-its of this awesome novel. Yet another novel that deserves 5 stars. If you're an edge-of-your seat, always looking over your shoulder, white knuckle, gasping breath suspense lover, then look no further than Tami Hoag's work. She has a brilliant, masterful skill for writing heart stopping, blood pumping, murderous suspense that will leave you DYING for more! I can't wait until her next release!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hoag is at her finest with this novel, I would recommend this to anyone who loves an intense read full of intrigue and thrilling at the same time. Loved the protagonists to0!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In reading excerpts of novels and Reviews from customers, please don't give away the names of the suspects. I just purchased Tami Hoag's 2 novels and in perusing the excerpts of Secrets to the Grave, the excerpts from Barnes and Noble give away the whole plot and killer's name of the first book, "Deeper Than the Dead." Also, some of the Customer Reviewers gave it away!!! Bummer!!!
Cheri_L More than 1 year ago
Another great 80's Oak Knoll Mystery! I enjoyed reading this while snowed in. It made the time fly by. There were so many twists and turns as well as "family" secrets to uncover. If you like murder mysteries and/or remember the 80's you are sure to enjoy this book. Be sure to read "Deeper Than the Dead" first...not that you need to, however you will want to. I hope there is another Oak Knoll Mystery in the works. I can't wait!
CheetahWJ More than 1 year ago
I read the deeper then the dead and I was disappointed about the ending, but this book explains what happens with another murder. I have to say it was a good book. It took me 2 days to read it and I could not put this book down. I will continue to read her books.
Carol Johnson More than 1 year ago
I love Hoag books and this is no exception. It keeps you guessing to the very end. Hope there is a third book with these characters.
Lynie More than 1 year ago
"My daddy hurt my mommy", a very young girl told the 911 operator. When the police arrived at the home, they found artist Marissa Fordham brutally murdered and her daughter Haley lying on her mother's body, badly injured but still alive. It looks like an open and shut case if they can locate Haley's father, but no one knows who Haley's father is and the police can't find a birth certificate. SECRETS TO THE GRAVE is a sequel to DEEPER THAN THE DEAD by the same author. Child Advocate Ann Leone, who was the victim of a killer in Hoag's previous book, and her husband, former FBI Agent Vince Leone, take custody of Haley while the police search for the child's relatives. Unfortunately for lead Det. Tony Mendez, Marissa was a single mother and Haley called every man in her mother's life daddy which creates an ever increasing suspect list. The investigation reaches a roadblock when no one can find anything about Marissa before her move to this small California town; it's as if she never existed. The hope is that Marissa's best friend can provide some background, but she quickly goes missing. I figured out fairly early on who "daddy" was but Ms. Hoag throws so many protagonists into the mix (including a very troubled adolescent who was a student of Mrs. Leone's when she was a teacher) that it's almost exhausting to read SECRETS TO THE GRAVE all the way through. If you're already a fan of Ms. Hoag's books, you'll probably enjoy this one. If, like me, you haven't read anything by her before, this isn't the book to start with. I felt like I had arrived at the dance just as the band was packing up to leave. Lynn Kimmerle
mycritic More than 1 year ago
This book is highly recomended. It's not easy to find well-written mysteries that make you think after you have put down the novel. This one will linger in your mind. Along the lines of Van Rae's new stff, or Koontz at his best.
Anonymous 18 days ago
This awesome book keeps you guessing. Be prepared to challenge your way of thinking
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It was one of those books that I couldn't put down, Anyone that likes mysteries should read this book. Read the book on a Sunday instead of doing my housework
nsrn More than 1 year ago
I love this author's work. Her plots are well done, her characters are well developed, and she has a great sense of humor. Honestly....she cracks me up. Kudos, Ms. Hoag.
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I couldn't put it down. Tami Hoag, is a great Author, and this book didn't disappoint! It was well written, and kept interested until the very end!
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