Sunday, April 14, 2013

the secret keeper

During a game of hide-and-seek, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson hides in a treehouse at her family's home in the English countryside. Just as she is about to head back down to the birthday party nearby, she sees an ominous figure walking down the road. Only Laurel views what happens next between the man and her mother, Dorothy, who exits the house at the wrong moment. But this secret haunts Laurel for years and yearsas she becomes an adult, moves to London, becomes a famous Oscar-winning actress, and eventually returns to her childhood home because her mother is sick and dying. As Laurel tries to figure out the mystery behind that fateful day 50 years before, the author flashes us back to the 1940s (WWII London) and slowly reveals the many secrets Laurel's mother has hidden from her family.

This is an exciting, page-turning mystery that flips back and forth between the detective (Laurel) and the enigma (Dorothy). It urges readers to make guesses at the truth, often blatantly presenting possible solutions, and I'll admit that I was brainstorming ideas from page one until the very end. Of the ten or so ideas I came up with, about half were true; this is a story of many mysteries/secrets. I appreciated that the author created a story that invites so much speculation and I loved being both successful at hitting the target and also surprised by what I hadn't guessed.

However, I didn't always love the writing. It feels like a cliché detective story at times, like something you'd see on an old TV show. Characters occasionally speak aloud to themselves, too many clues are nicely tucked into diaries and letters, and the library just happens to hold the perfect sources. It was very convenient. Too convenient, I think, to feel realistic or convincing. This feeling was amplified by the constant twists and turns. Just when you get one thing figured out, another mystery pops up. By the end, although I had enjoyed the journey to reach the truth, the truth itself felt too complicated and orchestrated to be satisfying.

TITLE: The Secret Keeper

AUTHOR: Kate Morton
PUBLICATION DATE: 25 October 2012
DATE FINISHED: 6 April 2013
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. It was a fun ride that kept me excited and guessing, but the ending disappointed.

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