Then the knife came down, the special knife, plunging deep into the man’s chest. Time slowed; it raced. The man cried out, and his face twisted with surprise and pain and horror, and Laurel stared as his hands went to the knife’s bone handle, to where the blood was staining his shirt, as he fell to the ground, as the warm breeze dragged his hat over and over through the dust. – from The Secret Keeper, page 16 –
Laurel is a well-known English actress living in London. Her life seems idyllic. But there is a dark secret she has kept from everyone – including her three sisters and brother. When she was sixteen she witnessed a murder committed by her mother in the garden of their country home. The police believe her mother acted in self defense against a man who was presumed to be dangerous. But Laurel knows something the police do not – just before her mother raised a knife against Henry Jenkins, he spoke her name. This was no random act of violence and now nearly fifty years later, as Laurel’s mother lives out her final days, Laurel wants to uncover the secret her mother has kept all these years.
It suddenly seemed to Laurel that all the absences in her own life, every loss and sadness, every nightmare in the dark, every unexplained melancholy, took the shadowy form of the same unanswered question, something that had been there since she was sixteen years old – her mother’s unspoken secret. – from The Secret Keeper, page 71 -
Kate Morton’s fourth novel is written in her signature style with multiple points of view, riveting characters and a narrative which weaves back and forth in time. Dorothy, Laurel’s mother, lived through the London Blitz during WWII and much of the narrative takes place in that time period. But Morton also fast forwards to present day, unveiling Laurel’s emotional struggles and her quest to uncover the truth of her mother’s life. The novel is broken into four parts to reveal the stories of four major characters: Dorothy, Laurel, Vivien and Jimmy. As the novel unfolds, the puzzle of Dorothy’s life is pieced together and her darkest secret comes to light.
I have read two previous novels by this author (The House at Riverton – read my review; and The Distant Hours – read my review) and enjoyed them both. The Secret Keeper is also a well written, page turner which explores the themes of friendship, love, deception and family secrets against the backdrop of historical events. I found myself intrigued by the mystery in this novel – enough to keep me turning the last 150 pages late into the night to solve the puzzle.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction with a mystery twist, will want to pick up a copy of The Secret Keeper.