Our Little Secret
by Kevin Flynn & Rebecca Lavoie
Berkley True Crime
Summary – A terrific account of a 1985 New Hampshire killing. The case is ambiguous and offers the reader no easy answers – which is what makes the book so powerful.
Review – We all look back at our teen years and marvel at some of the things that we thought and did. Fortunately, most teenage mistakes do no lasting damage – and even becoming amusing years later. But what happens when teens step far over the line? What if teens do something that cannot be “laughed away” years later?
That’s the question behind Our Little Secret, a true account of a New Hampshire murder. In November 1985 someone shot and killed a man named Daniel Paquette as Paquette was working outside his home. Police quickly identified the killers, but it would take more than two decades for the case to reach its conclusion. The varied reasons for the delay – friendship, child abuse, and moral ambiguity – are the heart of the story.
The book includes the following quote:
Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights – Christian Friedrich Hebbel.
It is this conflict that lifts Our Little Secret above most true-crime stories. On one hand, Daniel Paquette was not an entirely-sympathetic victim; he was accused of molesting his children and had been in many, other minor scrapes with the law. On the other hand, even before Daniel’s death, the Paquette family had been through unspeakable tragedies. Also, the motives of Daniel’s killers may not have been entirely pure.
Unlike most true-crime authors, Flynn and Lavoie do a fantastic job of telling the story – from multiple perspectives. Readers will feel that they know the people caught up in the drama and will develop strong feelings about the case. The authors vividly describe both New England and the high school culture that influenced the killers’ actions. The prose often gives the book a very “earthy” quality that is more often found in novels. Consider –
Victor Paquette and Laverne Gauthier were engaging in a sex act even Victor thought was filthy when the phone rang again. … By the tone of his friend’s voice, Victor knew it was serious. He threw on some jeans and left for the emergency room. Twenty years later, when he thought about that day in 1985, Victor could still remember checking out Laverne’s ass on the way out the door and thinking, I’ll finish that job another day (page 16).
Unlike the authors, I am not convinced that the silence of many of the people involved in the case is all that remarkable. After all, no one likes a snitch. The police had a lot of information about the case from the start, but most of it was hearsay and could not be used in court. Only when the police developed solid evidence did the case go to trial.
I am a big fan of Our Little Secret. It would make an excellent choice for the Edgar Awards for Best Fact Crime.