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Domestic discord

Two novels focus on events that cause carefully constructed facades to decay BY ROBERT J. WIERSEMA

FICTION

Our Little Secret

Roz Nay Simon & Schuster Canada

The Party

Robyn Harding Scout Press/Simon & Schuster Canada

TRADITIONALLY, THE main engine of narrative, especially in commercial and genre fiction, can be boiled down to a simple question: what happens next? Everything else is subservient to that overarching concern, which, at its best, lends the fiction its propulsive force. Increasingly, however, commercial fiction seems to be building on a question that has historically been the province of the mystery genre: what really happened? It’s an altogether different perspective, and one which requires a different set of approaches to succeed.

With her debut novel, Our Little Secret, B.C. writer Roz Nay seems to take her cue from the unreliability of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, while leaning heavily on the trope of a police interrogation. As the novel opens, readers are informed – in the voice of Angela, the novel’s focal character – that “I’ve been in the police station all morning while they ask me questions about Saskia.” Something, clearly, has happened. A homicide detective enters the interview room.

The mysteries around Saskia’s disappearance require a thorough immersion in Angela’s memories. After a long childhood consisting of frequent moves – “career-related for my father” – Angela begins Grade 10 at Lakeside High in Cove, Vermont, and is quickly taken under the wing of one of the school’s most popular boys, HP. Their friendship deepens over time, and gradually turns to love. Angela, though, leaves town after graduation to spend a year at Oxford, where everything changes, and where the seeds of the novel’s present situation are sown.

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