Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Originally Published: 2012
Format I Read: Hardback
Publisher: Atria Books
I’ve been wanting to read something by Kate Morton ever since I read the rave reviews of her debut, The Forgotten Garden. So, when I was offered a review copy of her fourth novel, The Secret Keeper, I eagerly accepted it. Since this is a mystery with a number of plot twists, I thought it safest to go with the publisher’s blurb:
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy – her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
This was a lovely family mystery novel. From what I understand, Kate Morton has established a bit of a franchise on the family mystery novel. While some parts, particularly near the beginning, were slow, by the time I hit page 100 I was riveted. Granted, you have to suspend a good deal of disbelief that things in the past happened exactly the way it describes and even more that the clues from the past fall together so neatly. But, it was a good, entertaining read. And the twists and turns left me a little breathless by the end. Oh, and I really liked the setting of London during the Blitz. The whole book was a brilliant mix of the present and the past.
At first, I thought the writing called a little too much attention to itself, which contributed to the slow going. But then, either I or Kate (or both of us) found a rhythm. Some of her turns of phrase are delightful, as are some of the humorous touches. This was my favorite – an exchange between Laurel and a librarian:
“That’s right. I’ve brought the archive over from the muniments tower for you.”
“Super. Thank you very much.”
“Don’t mention it – any excuse to climb the tower.” he smiled and leaned a little closer, exhibiting an air of conspiracy. “It’s up a spiral staircase, you know, accessed through a door hidden in the paneling of the hall. Like something out of Hogwarts.”
Laurel had read Harry Potter, of course, and was no less immune to the charms of old buildings than anyone else, but opening hours were limited, and Katy Ellis’s letters were within shouting distance, and the combination of those two facts left her rather panicked at the thought of spending another minute discussing either architecture or fiction with Ben. She smiled with a feigned lack of comprehension (Hogwarts?); he met it with one of sympathetic realization (Muggle), and they both moved on. (345)
In all, I quite enjoyed this tale of family secrets and adventure. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Ms. Morton’s work in the future.
The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton [rating:4]
What others had to say:
Jenny of Jenny’s Books: “If you’re in the mood for an engaging historical mystery with some fun-if-guessable twists and reversals of fortune, Kate Morton’s your girl.”
Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna’s Books: “This wasn’t my favorite of Morton’s books, but it’s certainly thought-provoking and would make a great book club pick if your group isn’t opposed to longer readers.”
Liviu Suciu of Fantasy Book Critic: “The Secret Keeper is such a stunning novel that it catapulted Kate Morton from the rank of top historical fiction writers of today to my very short list of huge favorite writers period.”
Jill of Rhapsody in Books Weblog: “If you feel a bit lost or stalled at the beginning, as I did, I recommend staying the course. I admit that I didn’t appreciate the book much until the end, when all the meanings and the well-crafted ironies became clear.”