I was initially skeptical about this book. Mostly, that was because my mum recommended it and the cover didn’t inspire my imagination. Once I got past my misgivings though I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s fairly long, and it proceeds at a measured pace (not exactly fast, but there aren’t any slow boring bits either). Kate Morton’s detailed and vivid descriptions drew me into the world of 1940s London and Laurel’s quest to uncover her mother’s secrets. I feel like I could read this book again and enjoy it even more the second time. Now, how to review it without giving too much away?

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‘The Secret Keeper’ starts off in the English countryside in the 1960s. Laurel, a young woman at the time, is hanging out in her treehouse, planning her glittering future on the stage, when a strange man walks up her driveway, and is murdered by her mother. We then switch to London, 2011. Laurel’s mother is dying, and finally, she decides she needs to find out why her mother would do something so terrible.

For the rest of the story we switch between Dorothy Smitham in the 1930s-40s, her friend Vivien, and Laurel, as she conducts her own investigation in 2011. Switching between the different time frames worked well. The reader generally knows more than Laurel, but her investigation feeds into the reader’s experience well, as Laurel has to consider some ugly possibilities about her mother. Once I got really interested, I could appreciate Laurel’s frustration and need to know more, as well as her apprehension at what she might find out.

Oddly enough, Laurel’s father, Stephen Nicolson, was probably my favourite character (followed closely by Laurel). You don’t see much of him, as the story is very much focused on the women – Laurel, Dorothy and Vivien (though you get a fair bit of Jimmy, Dorothy’s sweetheart during the war). I didn’t particularly like young Dorothy Smitham, but by the end I did pity her. Despite the fact that Laurel’s investigation is in 2011, you don’t know the fate of most of the characters until the end. You do get hints though, and this feeds in well to a feeling of dread for the tragedy you know is coming.

The story has lots of twists and turns, as the reader and Laurel come to one conclusion, and then tantalizing new information emerges that casts your previous theories into doubt. It was a fairly long book, but I wouldn’t call it slow. The reader is always learning more. I found myself thinking about the book even when I wasn’t reading it, and I read the last bit pretty fast. By the end you can sort of guess what’s going to happen, though the ending is still very satisfying. I feel like this is a book I could re-read, and possibly enjoy it even more, now that I know the ending and could pick up the many details and hints scattered throughout the story.

So, overall, an immensely enjoyable read. Excellent writing, a captivating plot, and fascinating characters. Even the characters I didn’t like, I found interesting. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone who has the time to read it, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it as well.