From Manik Chaturmutha, Independent Book Review:
The Secret Field by Susan Dennis is one of the best mystery-thrillers I have ever read. Let me tell you why.
After losing both her job and her father, Kari, an under confident loner, shifts from a one bedroom home to a farm in the countryside. She leaves her mother, who has given her nothing but trauma in a facility for the old.
Kari mostly keeps to herself until one night, two aggressive dogs with devilish intent chase and attack her and her two corgi dogs. As she tries to save one of her dogs from death at the hands of the vicious hound, she gets bitten. Then, a high-pitched call causes the devil dogs to leave them.
Someone obviously owned the dogs that had attacked her. So, after rushing home from the bloody encounter, she thinks of reporting the crime to the sheriff. Only two people live near her house—a relatively old couple, Joe and Marty. But she soon discovers her new neighbor is as dangerous as his dogs.
The narrative is easy to follow, yet not too easy to become uninteresting. We dive directly into the thrilling story without delay. Classic tropes of crime thrillers, like two sides of narration running parallel, are employed in this novel. The parallel storylines converge at a few points in the book and add greatly to the story’s overall appeal.
The characters are well-constructed and fully developed. They are intricately connected by their land, history, and law. No person that is part of the story ever breaks character; they are indeed true to their roles.
The descriptions are vivid, making us feel the creepiness instead of just seeing it. The land where most of the plot unfolds can be visualized clearly through the strong descriptions. I don’t usually discuss descriptions as part of the excitement of a suspense thriller, but with The Secret Field, I can’t help it.
The representation is good as well. We need more smart female detectives in our thriller fiction, and author Susan Dennis gives us a great one here.
The Secret Field is a captivating blend of emotions, legalities, history, myth, drama, and thrilling events. Quite the all-around package if you ask me. I strongly recommend this fascinating read to all mystery lovers!
From D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review:
The Secret Field is a story of mystery and suspense that sends its readers on a heart-pounding romp through rural isolation and trauma. It examines the choices that bring loner Kari Bell to eschew normal small-town connections in favor of an isolated refuge on a rundown ranch.
Over forty years old, Kari seems unlikely to change, until circumstances force her into the limelight of a situation that holds uncommon danger as a treasure hunt points to the goal as being literally under her feet.
“What are you willing do to save the thing you love most, right fucking now?”
A life-or-death encounter between her beloved dog Dragonbear and another canine encapsulates the broader question that becomes her life as Kari becomes entangled in land rights, easements, Reggie Raintree’s dogged pursuit of an elusive treasure, and the question of what she will do to preserve her life.
While The Secret Field is marketed as a mystery and thriller, to call it a genre read alone would be to do it a grave disservice. As much on the line as a fortune is the physical and psychological life of a woman who has achieved her own goal of a fragile peace that teeters on the brink of insolvency due to Reggie’s mission.
Susan Dennis creates a fine contrast in life experiences, perspectives, and motivations to bring Kari’s world to life with rich inspections and twists and turns that mark a mystery steeped in psychological inspections.
At every turn, the story asks questions of its readers about credibility, perseverance, and lifestyle values. A wide cast of characters are introduced who add their own special interests to Kari’s life, embracing and expanding it in unusual ways she never could have predicted as outcomes in her isolated world.
“Kari’s first thought was about thinking outside of the box for a way to save them all.” This description of events that keep Kari both motivated and evolving may also be said of her readers, who will find their expectations of a whodunit satisfyingly challenged by the rich depth of inspection cultivated in The Secret Field.
All the trappings of a fine thriller are there: Russians, mail-order brides, dog-killers, bribery, and court proceedings. The overlay of insights into manipulation, isolation, and the results of a determination to survive against all odds make The Secret Field highly recommended not just for thriller readers, but for libraries and book clubs seeking discussion material about love, home, and the real values in life pursuits.
The Secret Field by Susan Dennis is a spellbinding thriller with unforgettable characters and a conflict that moves the plot forward to unexpected and unsuspecting places. Kari Bell is a chronic loner and she also has her addictions to keep her away from humans. Burying her father and living with her mother’s dark secret are experiences that leave her traumatized. Now she buys a derelict ranch house near the woods and pastureland and settles there in quietude, accompanied by her Siamese cat and two dogs. But the calm she has sought in her new home at the end of a rural road is threatened when Reggie Raintree —the last heir of what was once a plantation extending to the land that Kari now owns — returns with his Russian wife looking for gold hidden in the land that once belonged to the family. Everything indicates that the gold is buried in Kari’s land and Reggie Raintree will stop at nothing to get the land from her. Now Kari has a lot to deal with —corrupt local officials, getting stalked, and being dragged to court — but does she have enough fight to resist Raintree?
Susan Dennis’ The Secret Field is a tale with strong themes and complex characters, a story in which one woman’s quest for a quiet home goes against a ruthless antagonist’s hunt for hidden treasure. This eminently admirable novel melds different genres into one and features a female protagonist that is genuinely flawed and relatable. Kari Bell is well-developed, a multilayered character who has experienced intimate pain and a troubling past, which makes her a compelling character. Within two years, she has transitioned from living in a bedroom that is fully furnished to being the owner of a “rural sanctuary,” becoming “an adoring dog mother.” The conflict takes a painful turn when her new life is threatened. The journey that Kari Bell makes from being a loner to someone who takes up arms to protect what is important to her is excellently executed. This novel is, indeed, a page-turning narrative that is in turn unsettling and thoroughly captivating. The well-written setting and the author’s ability to bring life to the vividly described scenery only enhance the haunting character of this tale. The Secret Field is a fresh literary voice that will surely grab the interest of readers.
Reviews from GoodReads:
“This was a good read, it was well written with a twisty story line and well developed characters all set against an atmospheric setting. It was a compelling read that was unpredictable and left me wondering what was going on. I really enjoyed it.”
“Salty, sweet and scary all in one book. Loved it so much I am begging for a sequel. Delicious, flawed characters the author develops into a twisting storyline filled with the unexpected and when you think you know where she’s going, she delivers yet another surprise. She cleverly ties all of the threads together but be prepared to be surprised right to the last pages. So not your typical thriller. Playful and suspenseful.”
“I did find that this story did suck me in that I could not stop reading. The first opening scene was tragic and one that grabs your attention quickly. From there I could not wait to see how the story would progress.
In the beginning, I liked Kari and felt for her but to be honest, she came off a bit “mousey”. Yet, the further the story went on, Kari did blossom and become stronger. It was a nice progression that allowed me to get closer to her. The other characters were prominent players in this story as well. No one felt like they were third string. Overall, I did enjoy this book and would read another by this author.”
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