Game of Secrets
by Dawn Tripp


Random House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-400-06188-4.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 08/18/2011

Fiction: Literary; Fiction: Mystery

Two women, one old and one very old, sit at a park picnic table every Friday playing Scrabble. They do a bit of friendly bantering about scoring and strategy; they talk about the overlapping lives of their families. A pretty scene, yes...but like many idyllic scenes, one with long, dark, and chilling shadows.

Ada Varik, the elder woman once had a lover, Luce Weld. Luce disappeared. Only years later, when a bullet-drilled skull turned up during a road-building project did it become clear what happened to him. Now Ada's youngest son, Ray, is the best friend of Alex, the son of Luce's daughter Jane, and has a growing relationship with her daughter, Marne. Jane is the younger woman seated at the table, and she is the scorekeeper.

Dawn Tripp skillfully brings this dramatic story to life across its half-century span. The New England seaside community bisected into summer folks and the locals—mostly fishers—comes clearly to life. The characters, especially Marne, Jane, and Ada, are startlingly real. Primarily, though, it is the dark story of death and betrayal that leaps off the pages. In the first pages questions appeared in my mind. Midway, I was fairly sure they could not be answered. I was almost right—right up to the final chapter.

At first I was disconcerted by Tripp's use not only of shifting points-of-view and voices but also of shifting time periods—I'd be deep in 1962 and then, bang, I'm back in 2004, but as I became immersed in the stories, I liked it very much. That's how life is—a memory suddenly super-imposes on reality.

This story is realism at its most chilling, and it is very well written.


Dawn Tripp grew up as one of the summer people in a community much like the one she writes of in Game of Secrets. Today she lives in that Massachusetts area with her husband and two young sons. She has two previous novels: Moon Tide and The Season of Open Water, the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction. Visit her website.

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