Published October 2012 by Simon & Schuster
The new novel from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours is a spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.
During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.
The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
I hadn’t read any of Kate Morton’s books before but I do love dual time frame stories and so I was looking forward to this one. I was captivated from the very start. The story began in 1961 with Laurel and her family living at Greenacres, the family home in the country and went back in time to the younger lives of Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy during the blitz, and with both time frames there was just a wonderful sense of place and atmosphere.
Laurel’s investigations into her mother, Dorothy’s life, are very cleverly woven into the earlier part of the story which takes place from 1941 and through the years of WW2. Dorothy is a complicated character, whilst there is a naivety about her, she can be very manipulative and sometimes deceitful. Jimmy meets Dorothy when they are both living in Coventry, before the war and their ensuing romance is very well written following their move to London where Jimmy ultimately becomes a war photographer. Vivien becomes a neighbour of Dorothy’s in London and as the story unfolds their lives are bound together with tragic consequences.
Laurel’s research into that dreadful event of 1961 when she was 16 leads her to Oxford and to London and I was keen to find out her discoveries with her and felt her frustration when she came to what seemed to be a dead end. The help of her younger brother Gerry, who is a bit of a science boffin and who lived in his own world most of the time was invaluable and I loved the interaction between them. Laurel’s sisters, Rose, Iris and Daphne were mostly peripheral to the story but you did get a real sense of family when they were all together.
There was a fabulous twist at the end which I didn’t see coming and which makes everything fall into place. I wanted to go back and re-read parts but on a Kindle this is not very practical. At 600 pages long, this is a certainly a lot of book but I enjoyed every page and look forward to reading Kate Morton’s back catalogue from my bookshelf.
My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Simon & Schuster for the digital copy to review
Author website: http://www.katemorton.com