Inspired by the real life unsolved murders of Lena and Tommy Peterson in 1902, Secrets by the Knoll attempts to retell the days leading up to the murder, the investigation and the effects on the family and the town. The mystery of the children's deaths drew me in along with the strange family dynamics. The first chapter, which takes place in the present really piqued my interest as a descendant of the family goes back to find the place that the children were murdered. However, we never come back to the present or what the descendant learned. The writing overall was a little clunky and the dialogue unrealistic with one character saying "do this" and the other character saying, "ok, I will do this." There are also quite a few typos, such as "Like goes on" instead of "Life goes on." Regardless of these, I finished the book since I really wanted another point of view on who the author thought committed the murders and why. For the most part, the story follows the actual events of the murder and investigation with the exception of name changes. This does give a good feeling of time and place as well as people's views. Almost the whole town was ready to convict an African-American coal miner for the children's deaths simply because he was a newcomer to the town. I should not have been surprised as to who the author believed was responsible for the deaths as there was heavy foreshadowing and strange reactions to the character the whole way through. Overall, a historical mystery with a lot of potential, but one that needed some cleaning up and a bit more punch, such as the murder from the children's point of view or a clear and thought out motive for the perpetrator.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.