The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

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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 fatefully entwined. Shifting between the 1930s, the 1960s and the present, The Secret Keeper is a spellbinding story of mysteries and secrets, murder and enduring love.
( Synopsis)

Having been wrapped up in a world of high fantasy for the last month and a half I decided to give myself a break from the horrific events of ‘A Storm of Swords’ by G.R.R Martin and pick up a book that would offer me something different. As I perused my local Waterstones my eyes were drawn to the dazzling green cover of the ‘Secret Keeper’, the promise of escape entwined within it’s depiction of a young lady hiding herself from view in a picturesque garden and the title, giving the novel an air of mystery that I just couldn't resist.

Three days later here I am, having merely hours ago finished what I believe to be one of Morton’s best works. I have previously read ‘The Forgotten Garden’ and ‘The House at Riverton’ whilst ‘The Distant Hours’ lies languidly on one of my many shelves waiting to be picked up. After reading ‘The Forgotten Garden’ it was immediately added to my favourites shelf and so to shall ‘The Secret Keeper’ (once my Mother has finished reading it to my insistence, of course.)

Without giving to much away and repeating what is said in the synopsis I have provided above ‘The Secret Keeper’ follows the journey of Laurel Nicolson as she tries to unravel her elderly mothers past. It is sparked by a catalyst in Laurel’s young life, an event that she had managed to hide away in her mind until she realises that, with her mother’s health deteriorating, she may never get the answers she needs. What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the life of Dorothy Nicolson, with so many twists and turns that I can promise you just when you think you've got it all figured out, you won’t have.
One of the many things that enthralled me about Morton’s writing in ‘The Forgotten Garden’ is once again prevalent in ‘The Secret Keeper’. She has the knack of making you fall completely for the characters she creates. Throughout the entire novel, no matter what time period I was in, I was utterly connected to the characters. I would say that for me the time spent in the 1930s and 40s edged it slightly, if only for the nostalgic and wonderful way Morton brings the War and the way in which it made people act to life. Jimmy Metcalfe was by far my favourite character throughout. A down on his luck, hard working young man who just wants to be able to provide for the woman he loves when the world around then is being torn apart.

The unravelling of Dorothy’s life and the mystery that surrounds the event Laurel so desperately needs answers to was enough for me to keep the pages turning even if I needed to be doing other things. The little hints Morton leaves here and there in the book made it all the more amazing, as I found myself wondering how on earth I didn't see the twists in the plot coming. With a very bitter-sweet ending that left me feeling nostalgic, happy and sad all at the same time ‘The Secret Keeper’ is more than a love story, more than a mystery and more than a retelling of a characters life. It is all of those things combined to make a perfectly crafted piece of historical fiction that will leave you wanting to delve back into the lives of the characters you have come to know and love so well.

My Rating: 8.5/10