In the follow-up to "Deeper Than The Dead", Anne Leone (now married to FBI profiler Vince Leone) is called upon to help four-year-old Haley Fordham, who witnessed the murder of her artist mother Marisa, and was nearly killed herself. She is obviously traumatised and can't identify the killer. Now working as a child advocate instead of a teacher, Anne takes the little girl into her own home.
The police force search for clues, but their best witness Gina Kemmer - Marisa's best friend - can't be contacted. That's because she's been shot and left for dead at the bottom of the well, conveniently unable to reveal any vital information. That leaves them with wealthy Milo Bordain, who funded Marisa's lifestyle and saw Marisa and Haley as her own sort of subtitute family. She's been sent a gruesome gift in the mail and it would appear she is next on the list. Meanwhile, Anne's attempts to draw the killer's identity out of Haley brings her under increasing threat herself.
"Deeper Than The Dead" was good enough that I immediately grabbed this second installment. And while it easily maintains interest throughout, it is a much lesser effort than its predecessor. At the end of the day, there simply isn't much plot. The novel sits in a holding pattern while the police search for clues and Gina attempts to save herself from a dirty death at the bottom of a well. This is typical murder-of-the-week territory, little different from any crime TV show you might see. It's padded out with a highly unnecessary subplot involving psychotic little Dennis Farman, who stabbed a classmate in the previous novel. He's institutionalised now and Anne continues to visit him. His eventual escape and attack on Anne contributes nothing to....well, nothing. Everything gets wrapped up nice and easy at the end, with a rush of exposition to explain why things panned out the way they did. If Hoag were a better writer, bits and pieces of this truth could have been dropped througout the novel, and lessened the dragging pace. On top of all this, it STILL doesn't feel like this is taking place in 1986. The only real indication this is set in the past is through random statements dropped by various law enforcement personnel about how technologies will "soon" be available.
"Secrets To The Grave" isn't a total waste of time. It has the odd suspenseful moment here and there. But there's a curious lack of urgency to the proceedings, too many red herrings but with too few suspects to justify it, and a plot that tries to keep too much hidden, resulting in boredom rather than intrigue. Cut about fifty per cent of the extraneous material and you might have something to work with.