The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton is a big book, just shy of six hundred pages. It kept me guessing until the very, very end – quite a feat by Morton, no?
The Secret Keeper begins with a crime, witnessed by a young girl, Laurel. It’s got shades of Ian McEwan’s Atonement – innocent eyes making sense of what they’ve seen.
Fifty years later, Laurel sets out to unravel the truth of the crime and from there the story shifts between three different times – the 1930s, the 1960s and the present, and is told from the perspective of Laurel and three other people – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy. It’s billed (fairly) as a tale of “…mysteries and secrets, theatre and thievery, murder and enduring love“.
Firstly, I must confess that I’m not a big reader of mysteries. I feel it’s important to point this out because avid-mystery-readers might read The Secret Keeper with a keener eye for clues. I on the other hand didn’t guess where the story was going. I didn’t come remotely near guessing the ending and when small parts of the plot were revealed, it had me thinking “That must be the end now.” Well it’s not. Morton throws you tidbits right up to the stunning conclusion. I’m not one for spoilers so I’ll say no more other than it’s good.
At this point, your eyes may have drifted down to my score of 3.5/5 and wondered why the hell a stunning and surprising conclusion doesn’t deserve full marks. There’s a few things. The scenes set in wartime London were lush – full of vivid detail, characters that bloomed and well-paced action. And then the story would switch back to Laurel in the present day – I wasn’t such a fan of these bits. They were slower, there seemed to be lots of detail that didn’t add to the plot and Laurel was altogether a bit ‘blah’ (which she shouldn’t be given that she was supposed to be a world-famous actress).
Lastly, the plot swings on a few critical moments, two of which rely on the discovery of old documents… that were conveniently found in the library. Really? How lucky. I think I would have liked to have seen Laurel do a bit more detective work rather than heading to the library.
3.5/4 Nearly all the chapters finish in an OMG-what-happens-next way – expect some late nights.
There’s a reference to Raspberry Charlotte early in the story. Raspberries are just coming into season in Australia so I really couldn’t resist. Yum.
Thanks to publishers Allen & Unwin for my copy of The Secret Keeper (an uncorrected proof edition).