The Secret Keeper
By Kate Morton
Washington Square Press, July 2013
About the Book
During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—whose lives are forever after entwined. A gripping story of deception and passion, The Secret Keeper will keep you enthralled to the last page.
It’s 2011 and actress Laurel Nicholson and her siblings are watching as their 90 year old mother falls into ill health. But Dorothy Nicholson does not spend her waning days peacefully, looking at photographs, crying over the past, and speaking wistfully of “second chances”. Laurel is anxious to get to the bottom of her mother’s ravings, particularly as once, decades ago, Laurel witnessed a murder. From her perch in a tree house, Laurel watched as her mother stabbed a man to death in the garden of their family home. Laurel was young and even though her mother insisted it was self defense, Laurel could never shake the feeling that it was someone her mother had known. Decades later, Laurel wants to get to the bottom of her mother’s life during the war years and what her mother means when she said she had been given a second chance.
This one starts out slowly, quite slowly, and at times, you may have trouble getting into it. Like all of Ms. Morton’s books I’ve reviewed, she likes to take a leisurely pace, and that can be frustrating for pacing fanatics, like myself. But most of the time for Ms. Morton’s books (and that is certainly the case here), it’s totally worth it. In the midst of the many, many tangents, you find carefully planted nuggets of information that (only when viewed in hindsight) provide you with the clues needed to solve the major mystery of the novel.
And still, I can’t imagine anyone predicts the entire finish. Knowing Ms. Morton’s work, I did guess the ending, but only in pieces and parts. The total wrap up is a carefully crafted surprise. When you step back to look at how well the threads have been woven and how completely in the dark Ms. Morton keeps her readers until the very end, you’ll be amazed, as I am. The plotting is slow and complicated, so missing a single detail can throw you off. But the sheer complexity of the work that Ms. Morton creates can only be fully appreciated at the end, when the reader is left dumbstruck at all the twists and turns.
As with all Kate Morton’s works, this is something to be savored—a leisurely feast to really soak in all the intricacies of a master plotter.