Imogen’s Dark Secret is a crime-thriller novel that explores the severity of sex trafficking and the courage it takes to confront those who abuse. The novel moves between two simultaneous storylines, alternating between Imogen Mendez’s past and present life.
14-year-old Imogen was abandoned by her biological parents and resides with relatives. Though her new family are caring, Imogen still feels like an outsider.
‘Past’ Imogen is an insecure and naive individual, numb to her emotions, existing as ‘a spectre in her version of the world.’ Depression and anxiety affect her everyday life, to the point where she is unable to make eye contact in a conversation. Bullying intensifies at school and Imogen develops body-dysmorphia. Her self-esteem decreases and she soon finds herself developing a close relationship with her family friends’ relative, Alessandro Kyriakou.
Imogen sees him as a confidante and becomes codependent on Alessandro for emotional stability. Relieving her trauma of being an abandoned child indirectly gives Alessandro the tools to manipulate her.
Imogen forms a romantic relationship with Alessandro and recognises Alessandro’s affection as a mixture of romance and that of a sexual nature. The beginning of the relationship allows Alessandro to push beyond Imogen’s boundaries.
She initially enjoys the attention garnered at school from being in a relationship with a mature man and feels her confidence increase. Alessandro’s controlling and possessive behaviour strengthens but Imogen misjudges this and respects his authoritative position. It is when Imogen meets Alessandro’s friends and other girls like her, that she realises she is being coerced into having sexual relationships with other older men.
Alessandro’s intentions become dangerous as he allows Imogen to be systematically raped by one of his superiors, Jamie, and others in Alessandro’s inner circle. Imogen, confused and hurt, struggles to see a way out. Finally, our protagonist musters up the courage to speak to the police and is put under witness protection. Scared and conflicted about the infatuation she shared with Alessandro, Imogen hopes to put her abusive past behind her and move on.
In the present day, Imogen finds difficulty in coping with the dark secrets of her past. Alessandro reappearance shakes Imogen’s world but using her newly found confidence, she impulsively breaks into a house similar to one she was kept in. She endeavours to save other girls who have been through the ordeal she experienced when she was fourteen. Many of the girls are blind-sighted, convinced that they have love and security and refuse to believe they are a part of a wider sex trafficking ring.
Away from the house, Imogen confronts Alessandro, now immune to his narcissistic personality. She finds herself reflecting on the relentless cycle of abuse that has shaped her entire life and the evolution she has undergone as a young woman since escaping.
Our protagonist’s recklessness puts herself in danger as she attempts to locate and rescue those girls, coming face to face with her demons and members of the trafficking ring.
The novel ends with Imogen’s confession and unravelling the whole truth to Sergeant Masters.