Crime fiction,  International

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I became a Kate Morton fan some years ago, not only because I like her stories, but because I find her style very inspiring. Every time I pick up a Kate Morton, the writer in me craves for a notebook and a pen and millions of colorful stories flood my mind and The Secret Keeper was not an exception. I would like to thank Sophie from Mantle for sending me a review copy months ago and patiently waiting for my review.

Note: This is the cover for the US edition.

From Kate

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds–Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy–who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatally entwined…

If you ever read anything by Kate Morton, you know her books are all about layers: present and past are connected through characters, both past and present too. The Secret Keeper follows Morton’s typical style and connects events from WWII, the 1960’s and 2011. The chapters and divisions are so well-organized and details so greatly described that making the right connections is never a hard task for the reader: of course, we are asked to do such connections and sometimes a notebook and a pen can be helpful, but nothing too complex.

What surprised me the most about the book is that it explores WWII while Morton is more well-known for 19th century and gothic stories and settings. I was surprised but I was also pleased. WWII is one of those historical periods I cannot read without sobbing like a baby for hours, but Morton’s approach, although extremely poignant, was not like that. The characters are everyday man and women who are worried about their own survival and – for better or for worse – do not care about what is going on in Germany, for seeing London and their own families and houses devastated is enough to bear. This point of view humanized the characters in an incredible way, making them more approachable.

The characters are much more complex than those in her previous works. In The Secret Keeper there are no good and bad characters at first, although as the novel progresses, the division becomes clearer both for the characters and their actions. Their characterization is so well-done that sometimes goes against the plot itself (those of you who read it know what I’m talking about) but they are definitely a pleasure to read.

I would recommend The Secret Keeper to anyone who likes cozy, high-quality mysteries. Morton has done it again, she has created – and resolved – a family secret with a central and passionate love story with a complex structure and much historic accuracy. For those who haven’t read anything by her yet, this would make a great start, as would do any of her other books really. But beware, Morton’s colorful and polished style will stimulate your imagination and make you long for your own stories and characters.

You can read The Secret Keeper‘s first chapters here.

Check Kate discussing The Secret Keeper and her writing process:



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