cover image The Secret Talker

The Secret Talker

Geling Yan, trans. from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang. HarperVia, $23.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-300403-0

Qiao Hongmei, the heroine of this riveting tale of suspense from Yan (The Lost Daughter of Happiness), met Glen, her professor husband, years ago as a student in an English class he was teaching in Beijing. The two are now married and live in California, where he still teaches and she’s finishing her PhD thesis. One morning, Hongmei receives an anonymous email from someone who saw her at a restaurant the previous evening while she was dining with Glen and another couple. Vaguely dissatisfied with her marriage, Hongmei begins to correspond with her “secret talker,” revealing details of her early life in China that she has never disclosed to anyone and letting her long-repressed regrets come to the surface. The tone of the secret talker becomes gradually more alarming and even threatening: “you brought this on yourself. You can’t escape now. Invasion always hurts a little.” Yan’s pacing is impeccable as she delicately but inexorably builds toward a thought-provoking finale. Readers of tense literary fiction will find much to like. Agent: Marysia Juszczakiewicz, Peony Literary. (May)