Monday, July 1, 2024

Book Review: Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Rachel Ryder is a gutsy, sarcastic, emotionally damaged and extremely talented Detective who relocated from Chicago to small town Hamby, Georgia after the murder of her husband. Her life was turned upside in Chicago and she's hoping for a new start in Hamby. Besides, she has promises to keep.

Book cover

Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) opens with a call of a "suspicious person" at a questionable hotel. When Detective Ryder arrives, she learns that it is actually a deceased person. A deceased person who happens to be a city councilman. That is her first taste of the politics in this small town. You see, if you are a politician and you want your town to be rated as "safe", you'll avoid using certain terminology, such as murder and suicide, in order to keep the crime rate at less than one tenth of a percentage. In Chicago, there was plenty of political corruption to go around, but Detective Ryder struggles with this new small town status quo. And she struggles with the fact that they quickly decide the manner of death is suicide when it is clear to her, and should be clear to all of them, that it was murder.

Rachel Ryder's husband, Tommy, was murdered on a street in Chicago in front of her very eyes due to his part of addressing political corruption and crime. His death was why she moved to a small town; to leave the memories attached to Chicago and to live their dream. That dream included living in a rural area.

"Years ago, I promised Tommy I'd learn to care for and ride horses before we bought an acreage. He didn't want me walking blindly into that lifestyle. I intend to keep that promise..."

Detective Ryder's rough approach doesn't win her any fans as she tries to prove that the death was a murder. She also has a great deal of difficulty making friends. Rachel isn't concerned about making friends but she should be concerned about making enemies as she tries to figure out what the town is hiding at this seedy hotel. Was the councilman killed by a prostitute? An angry wife? A political opponent?  With everyone who matters in town insisting that it was a suicide, she may never learn the truth. 

Why I Chose This Book by Bestselling Author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

I am not sure I've ever heard of this author previously.  I only happened upon this series when searching for a book that would hold my attention during my staycation. While I had many plans for my staycation, I wasn't feeling 100% and decided to spend much of my time reading and relaxing. 

Have you ever been in one of those moods that it is hard to choose a book? When all of the books sound like been-there-done-that, boring, and the same plot just recycled. I just wasn't in the mood to choose a book. My Amazon search brought me to Damaging Secrets a thriller by Aspenson and the first in the series.  I thought I'd give it a try and frankly, I was just tired of trying to choose a book.

I enjoyed the "scrappy" detective so much. She was brilliant and experienced but her approach created barriers time and time again.

As someone who has moved from a rural area, to a metro area, and back again so many parts of the book rang true. Each area has it's own unspoken rules, terminology, and customs. Aspenson's writing hit the nail on the head for me with some of these items and helped the story to come alive for me. 

I enjoyed book 1 so much that I'm already halfway through book 2. It is no wonder that Aspenson is a best selling author. 

Read more reviews of Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson here. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. First, let me agree with you about it being hard sometimes to find/select a new book due to the " been-there-done-that, boring, and the same plot" issues. It just seems very hard to find a really good book with a unique plot and characters. Unfortunately, when I do find a really good one, I end up reading it quickly and then I am left with a "lost" feeling. This sounds like a good book! It sounds like a more realistic look at small town politics. Thanks for the recommendation

  2. Having lived in both big cities and small towns, I have a feeling for the atmosphere in both. I can imagine a mystery set in a small Georgia town as I've seen it happen. Your new-found author and her books sound very interesting. Thanks for your review and recommendation.

  3. You had me first at “gutsy, sarcastic, emotionally damaged and extremely talented Detective” and again at “if you are a politician and you want your town to be rated as ‘safe,’ you’ll avoid using certain terminology, such as murder and suicide…” This sounds like a well-conceived and well-written series. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. It sounds like a winner to me too. I love being able to start a series at #1. Working my way through if there is enough interest and from the sounds of this review there will be much interest to keep me coming back. Thanks Dawn Rae for another must read book to put on my list!

  5. Sounds like a good book to dive into. People who love mysteries, based on your review, would love this one.

  6. Thank you \Dawn Rae, I'm in the same position you were in when you found these books. Maybe I will have to dive right in and get my fix! In more ways than one.....


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