The Secret Keeper
by Kate Morton
1 star - what the heck happened here?
ALR Blue - if there were any animals, I missed them
Avid readers of this blog will recall that I gave my previous Kate Morton read, The Distant Hours, five stars. Afterwards, I promptly added all of Ms. Morton's novels to my queue, saving them for a time when I required a sure thing. Imagine my horror when, after toughing it out for almost 200 pages, I had to abandon The Secret Keeper (with extreme prejudice).
What went wrong? Well, it was clear from the get go that this was going to be a very similar story to The Distant Hours. A female lead, a story that bounces back and forth between past and present, World War II, family secrets. That's fine. In fact, I found that reassuring. "Yes," I said to myself, "this will be lovely, just like the last one."
Wrong. Whereas I was immediately captivated by the characters in The Distant Hours, the characters in The Secret Keeper didn't hold any charm for me. I became disenchanted almost from the start when the reader was asked to believe that a middle-aged woman could dispatch a fully grown man with a single, well placed thrust of a kitchen knife to the chest. Seriously? What are the chances of that?
Things went from bad to worse when two scenes appeared to have key contextual moments removed. As in, at first I thought I hadn't been paying attention because I'm wondering how the characters got from A to B, whether it was the same day or years later, and was generally confounded. Careful review of the passages showed that I had missed nothing and there was, indeed, a jarring jump within a scene. Ghastly editing.
Still, for a time at least, I was a bit curious to know what events had led up to the plunge of the knife, but as the book progressed with ever increasing flatness, I had to jump ship.
The story centers around Laurel Nicolson, a successful actress in present day England who is the only person (other than her mother) to know of her mother's well placed kitchen utensil decades before. She and her siblings are united to watch over their mother during her final days. Laurel is determined to understand how her mother came to be a murderess (the crime was quite well turned into a plea of self defense). Turns out that mom had an actual life before she became mom, so we get to see mom as a young woman in love during the second world war. Stuff happens, but who cares?
I'm not giving Ms. Morton the toss. I'll try another one of her books at some point. After all, she's shown she has the chops for a Mango Momma approved book (at least once), but I'll take a closer look at the dust jacket and maybe read the first couple of chapters before I commit.