Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

“Do you have a better way to tell who’s a cold-blooded killer?”… “They’re the most messed-up person in the room.” … “That’s the problem, though, isn’t it? They are, but you can’t tell.”
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (4.5/5)

What’s This Book About?

Genre: YA Thriller

Synopsis: Echo Ridge: 1995, Sarah Corcoran vanishes. 2014, homecoming queen Lacey Kilduff murdered. Neither case has been closed. Five years later, Ellery and Ezra Corcoran move to Echo Ridge, where the loss of their aunt still hangs over their family. Malcolm Kelly, whose older brother Declan was suspected of Lacey’s murder, is equally as haunted.

Now, mysterious threats start cropping up, old faces reappear in town and yet another girl vanishes. As Ellery and Malcolm scramble to understand and outwit the killer, they may instead find themselves suffocating on all the dirty secrets that Echo Ridge can’t keep buried…

What I Thought:

THAT LAST LINE LEFT ME WITH CHILLS. Genuine chills.

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Me, periodically while reading this novel

This was a fun read, blessed with dynamic plot exposition and a series of unpredictable twists. I was guessing away, only coming up with one semi-correct suspicion, and the reveal left me dumbfounded…though I didn’t get long to stay in shock as the narrative plunged headlong into imminent mortal peril! The plot definitely moved faster in the last quarter, to the point where I felt like the Big Reveal™ and aftermath could have benefited from a little expansion. The Big Bad felt slightly underdeveloped – I was told their motives but I lacked a more layered understanding of their person. The narrative overall flows really well, however, during a dream sequence, the present-tense narration did confuse me. I didn’t find this a problem in One of Us Is Lying, perhaps due to greater narrative clarity? I’m still stumped as to why.

The main characters and their key secondaries were engaging, diverse and funny. Ellery (one POV) and Ezra, twin siblings, are introduced as probably Latinx (unknown paternity) and Ezra is openly gay, while Malcolm’s (second POV) best friend Mia is Korean-American and bisexual. There is an awareness of white privilege and the pressure of being BAME* in a small, majority white American town.Passing thoughts, but I appreciated them being included. As all the main characters were such cinnamon rolls, I did feel that having unreliable narrators might have spiced up the story. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about these people and liked them well enough. (To not want them to die, at least.) Malcolm was my favourite!

A teensy, puppy love romance also blooms here, and it is, frankly, adorable. It definitely operates as a subplot, compared to the hot and heavy forbidden love of McManus’ previous (debut!) novel One of Us Is Lying. In this case, it was far more realistic for the romance to take the backseat, as the couple only knew each other for a few months at most.

Bottom line: 
I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as One of Us Is Lying (honestly, it set the bar so high), but it was engrossing all the same. I look forward to what McManus will write next!

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