The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Although we may worry that someday we will become our mothers, their lives before we were born  – that young woman who still exists behind the aging eyes – usually remains a mystery, no matter how well documented the family history.  In her latest novel, Kate Morton uses the mystery of a mother’s youth with the backdrop of the London Blitz to reveal a captivating story of love, war, and deception in The Secret Keeper.

Laurel, the eldest daughter now in her sixties, is haunted by an incident she accidentally witnessed when she was a sixteen year old girl; she saw her mother stab a man to death.  The only other witness was her two-year old younger brother, Gerry.  The secret, kept for fifty years from her other three sisters, now surfaces as her ninety-year-old mother is dying.  Morton alternates the action from wartime London in the 1940s to the bucolic modern setting of Greenacres farm, the family homestead.  As the story unwinds with each character revealing another piece of the puzzle, Morton cleverly maintains the suspense:

“Never discount the possibility of turning up an answer none of the current theories predicts.”

As Laurel and her brother investigate clues they find in their mother’s trunk – an old white fur coat, a dedication in a book, a photograph, a note with only the words “thank you,” each piece is explained with a flashback to one of the key characters: Dorothy, Laurel’s mother; Vivian, the mysterious wealthy friend; and Jimmy, the photographer who documented wartime existence, its horrors as well as its poignant moments.

Kate Morton is one of my guilty pleasures; each of her books has that curl-up-in-a-comfy-chair storytelling quality with just enough romance and Gothic mystery.  With its subtle twists, this tale has her usual formula and takes a little longer than usual to get to her trademark surprise ending.  If you’ve enjoyed her other books (see my reviews below), you won’t be disappointed in this one.

Reviews of other Kate Morton Books:

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

You know this story – set in Cornwall – because you’ve already read it many times in other books.    It doesn’t matter that you know the ending half-way through – Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden will draw you into the mystery.  It’s a comfortable formula and you will not want to leave its world.

In the style of another famous Cornish “Authoress,”  Daphne du Maurier, the story combines the romantic beauty of the sea with a story of family intrigue.   The Upstairs/Downstairs characters intermarry, of course, and you will predict how the short tales interspersed in the action reveal the characters’ flaws and strengths.

The story changes time and place throughout – connecting Nell to her childhood in Cornwall, in search of her mother’s identity.  How did four -year -old Nell arrive alone  in Australia on a ship from England – with no name or memory – and a only a book of illustrated fairytales as the clue to her background?

Morton explains all – with the help of Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter – to  a satisfying and predictable ending.

Have a “cuppa” tea and enjoy.