Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Mystery/ Australian Author
1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfil them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
The crime that Laurel witnessed is her mother Dorothy fatally stabbing a man with a birthday cake knife; no great spoiler as it happens in the first few pages. The stabbing is written off as self-protection as the man was threatening to kill Dorothy and the baby she was holding; he was also believed to be a sexual predator who had been roaming around the area. The family says nothing more about it, and the event is practically forgotten until they gather to give Dorothy a final birthday as she lies dying in hospital and a photo is discovered. This photo sets Laurel off on a personal quest to discover more about their mother’s life before she married; to find out what secret she has been keeping from her family all these years.
And the secret is a good one.
The Secret Keeper is Kate Morton’s fourth book and (hanging head in shame) the first I have read. Why have I ignored the previous three? OK – I have a fair idea – they are all huge books – well over 500 pages and the sheer size put me off. But once I started reading the story so engrossed me that I didn’t notice the size – size and time had no meaning. Slowly Laurel’s present day investigation results in snippets of information here, more snippets there, but to start off with few dots connecting. However, in balance Dorothy tells her story of the events of the war years which fills in some of the missing details. Slowly, very slowly the hidden truths are revealed. Just when you think you know what is going on, you find that you don’t because with a little tweak here and another tweak there the story goes off in another direction. The characters are wonderful, each of them coming alive on the pages, warts and all. Not all the characters are nice, but they are wonderfully portrayed and very believable. I could not put this book down, and so glad that I won an advance copy because I would have continued to not try her books solely on the size – and that would have been criminal of me.
Rating: A – Excellent. I could not put it down.
For more about the author – Click Here
The Secret Keeper is book #6 for AWW2013
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author via The Reading Room.