Wild Rose Press
September 25, 2023
ISBN: 978-1509249787; 352 pages
At loose ends after being suddenly separated from her job as a television news director for a major station, Vicky Robeson is taking time to consider her next steps, including exploring a relationship with Pete Harris. Pete packs up his RV, no questions asked, when Vicky tells him she needs to help find a missing ten-year-old and makes the long drive from Colorado to Walkers Corner, a small town west of St. Louis, Missouri, to get her there.
“Lisa on the Levee,” a young girl found walking alone, bloody, and unable to speak, was big news nine years ago. Vicky and fellow journalists had covered her story for weeks until new information finally ran out. The mystery was never solved, and a couple of leads Vicky left hanging back then continued to haunt her over the years. Now, another young girl has disappeared in nearly the same location, and Vicky fears her earlier omission may have enabled the current kidnapping.
Vicky doggedly pursues the truth behind the two Walkers Corner cases. As she breaks down the local resistance to her “outsider” questions, she relinquishes her own resistance to sharing her past, giving as well as receiving trust. She slowly becomes a part of this small community as she works to uncover the truth behind the old mystery while drawing the ire of a dangerous kidnapper.
Parallel Secrets, the debut novel of author M.L. Barrs, kicks off a new mystery series featuring the former television news reporter, Vicky Robeson, who is drawn into the baffling disappearance of a small-town Missouri girl with possible ties to a previous story she’s never forgotten. Long-buried secrets stymie her investigation and threaten her life as time ticks down on the possibility of a happy outcome for the missing child.
Told using dual timelines, the events of the cold case and that of the present day are revealed concurrently. Multiple points of view inform readers that some characters aren’t telling Vicky the truth or all they know and are trying to manipulate the narrative to their advantage. Almost everyone has secrets, and much like a rock tossed in the Walkers Corner swamp, the ripple effects of those secrets are still making an impact.
The plot is intricate, with many interlocking pieces that will have readers absorbed in trying to fit them all together into the correct configuration. Barrs’s natural storytelling style breathes vibrant life into the plot, characters, and rural Missouri setting with evocative descriptions of what is seen, heard, and smelled. The action occurs in some diverse and unique spots, and readers may imagine they feel the eerie emptiness of a long-abandoned hunting lodge, the dank and hopeless darkness of a hidden cave, or the eye-watering fumes from a fire out of control. With her experience in television news, the author conveys an authentic picture of Vicky Robeson’s background and professional skill set.
With small-town secrets as the backdrop for its compelling plot and characters that quickly engage a reader’s support, Parallel Secrets is recommended for mystery readers who enjoy strong female protagonists, a television news reporter sleuth, or a midwestern U.S. setting.
The oldest girl in a family of thirteen children, M.L. Barrs dropped out of high school and ran away from her single-wide mobile home. Homelessness quickly grew old, so she earned her GED, graduated college, married, and had two children, while launching a career in TV news. She started as a reporter, then moved into management. She ran television newsrooms in markets large and small, leading teams covering everything from terrorist attacks and devastating storms like Katrina, to major elections and sports. She later moved on to become a General Manager before deciding what she really wanted to do is write mysteries.