Book Review: Lacie’s Secrets by Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist
By Janet WebbApril 8, 2022
Kate hasn’t seen her mother for eighteen years, not since the mysterious and tragic disappearance of her younger sister Lacie. Susan, her mother’s caretaker, phones Kate to tell her that Grace is dead. It seems that Kate’s long self-imposed exile from Villa Magda, the gorgeous, sprawling oceanside estate in Maine where she spent every summer of her girlhood, is coming to an end. Months later, accompanied by family friends, Kate, her husband Charlie and their son Andrew make the trek to Maine: she’s determined to sell Villa Magda and put that part of her life behind her.
Time slips away when Kate sees Villa Magda again: Kate is flooded with memories from the day her sister disappeared. Grace was an inveterate party-giver. Kate recalls, “her mother was hosting one of her magical parties for Lacie—”this year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland—and she was giddy. Kate only saw her mother really happy when she was in the middle of preparing and hosting a party, with Susan always by her side helping with the food, cutting flowers, and checking the guest list.” Unfortunately, the party went terribly wrong.
She could see Susan rush out of the house toward her mother, holding something in her hand amid sounds of hushed whispers. She couldn’t hear what was being said but she moved closer as Susan swiped by her and she saw towels in her hand, dripping with blood. She heard one word: “Lacie.”
Gail rushed past, muttering to herself, “The house is only content with chaos. When things are too quiet, bad things happen.
Kate felt a shiver down her spine. “Lacie. What’s wrong with Lacie?”
Villa Magda has a malevolent spirit of its own and Gail’s remark seems like foreshadowing. Even though it’s a splendid oceanfront estate, returning is not easy for Kate. There are scary moments, like when Kate comes out of the shower and is accosted. Imagine being wrapped in nothing but a towel, being confronted by a strange older man, who puts their hand on your mouth. After calling Kate by name and asking her not to scream, he says something chilling.
“You can’t stay here. It’s not safe,” he urged. “You have to leave. It’s not safe here, in this house.”
She wanted to run downstairs, he was cornering her against the wall. “Charlie!” Kate called frantically.
The man grabbed her arm roughly, his eyes fiery. Kate tried to pull away but he was surprisingly strong for his age.
“Please, you have to listen to me. I know what happened to her… to Lacie… I have something of hers. I couldn’t bring it here, but if you come with me, I’ll show you.”
One of the reasons Kate came back to Villa Magda is to resolve her feelings about the summer she lost her younger sister. She has so many questions, like why, after keeping Lacie’s room locked in the aftermath of her disappearance, was Grace discovered dead in Lacie’s bedroom? Will Kate find the courage to go into that room, the equivalent of Bluebeard’s Cave in her mind? What is Chloe’s story, the local teenager who looks so much like Lacie? Kate’s estranged friend Alice, someone she has ghosted for years, reappears but it feels like there’s something off when they pick up the threads of their friendship. Her friends’ marriage is troubled: is it something in the air? Her son Andrew tries to rise above it all and ignore all the goings on.
Kate tries to ignore uncomfortable incidents, veiled threats, and suspicious visitors to Villa Magda but when she wakes up one morning to a body floating face down in the pool, she realizes that something is deeply, tragically wrong. She digs deeper, searching for clues in the home office—maybe the detritus of bills and clutter will yield the truth.
Frustrated, Kate looked in the last two drawers and still there was nothing that seemed to relate to her sister or the case. Feeling foolish, she realized she was grasping at straws. Why did she even think she could solve the case when the police hadn’t been able to. She wasn’t Nancy Drew or Veronica Mars.
But inevitably secrets will out. Benjamin Franklin, writing in Poor Richard’s Almanack, posited that “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” If Kate doesn’t want to end up dead too, she must solve the mystery of her sister’s death. Lacie’s Secret is Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist’s second psychological thriller, no sophomore slump for this duo. Threads of “multiple realities” and “unreliable narrators,” reinforced with the malignant spirit exuded by Villa Magda, make it a compelling mystery. Kate dives into a morass of memories, almost drowning mentally and physically in the attempt, as she bravely confronts the truths of her and her family’s past.