Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I feel like this review has been on my to do list for a while.  I'm still reading slower than I'd like, but hopefully that will change soon and I'll catch up on my reviews too.

  • A Quick Shout-Out
I need to throw a Thank You out before I get to the review itself.  I've been a fan of Kate Morton's for a while and was psyched to see a new book from her.  I seem to favor books by authors who only write one or two, so it is nice to have an author to watch.  However, I just couldn't justify buying a first-run book when I have courtesy copies on my stand. 

I entered a few giveaways with no luck.  In a long-shot move, I tracked down a name and sent an email.  I mentioned that I read for Harper and also have posted reviews of many other books over recent years on my blog as well as Goodreads and Amazon.  I also briefly mentioned the health issues that make it impossible to work a job beyond the bit of writing I do. 

I didn't hear back and wrote it off as having been worth a shot.  Then a package showed up at my door.  It made my day...and the many days to come when I got to read it.  I sent a note of thanks but wanted to include the same here.  I don't want to include a name here and have the person get too many emails and regret the kindness.  So it'll be kind of a reverse anonymous expression of gratitude.  Of course, this is still my honest review.

I've become a fan of literary mysteries in recent years, novels that happen to include mystery rather than books that are a "whodunit" first and a novel second.  Morton is a leader in this genre and her books always promise character and writing, with a mystery that often involves a character trying to unravel her past and her family's history. 

In The Secret Keeper, Laurel and her siblings are gathering during their mother's final days.  The time pulls Laurel back to a memory she never quite resolved, when she was sixteen and observed her mother stab and kill a man during an otherwise typical family celebration in 1961.  The only other witness was her toddler-age brother.  Laurel works to uncover the story behind this aberration in her otherwise fairly idyllic family life and tries to figure out who Dorothy was before she became devoted to her husband and children.  Laurel's chapters are interspersed with chapters focused on World War Two London as Dorothy comes of age during the terrifying and confusing years of the Blitz.

This isn't my favorite Morton book, but I still very much enjoyed it and it gets a solid four stars.  As in her prior works, the mystery is about characters, the secrets that they hold, and the way they come to be who they are.  It is also about how our family's past informs our own present.  I love Morton's language and her ability to create a sense of a time and a place.  I could feel 1940s London and definitely favored those chapters over Laurel's modern day plot (although I was drawn to the character of her only brother).  I didn't always like every character, but that never prevented me from being interested in them.  I had some inklings about the novel's secrets, but some of the twists did catch me by surprise (something I value). 

Recommended for people for like well-crafted characters and settings.  These elements drive the book and make the reader invest in the novel's mysteries.

P.S.  As I finished this book, I learned it was chosen for the book club hosted by Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers.  I'll try to remember to link to her review when it runs (which also links to a number of other blogger reviews).

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