It’s no secret that I love a good mystery. Agatha Christie is the undisputed Queen of the genre and I will be the first to give the Swedes their due, but another one of my favourites is Australian Kate Morton.
Have you read any of her work? You should. They are good. The Distant Hours was probably my favourite, but The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden are also great fun.
I was really looking forward to reading The Secret Keeper, which is her most recent work.
Laurel Nicholson is a famous English actress in her 60s when her mother’s health starts to fail rapidly. Because of something that happened one afternoon in 1961 and her mother’s increasingly nonsensical ramblings, Laurel becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened that day in the garden. She enlists the help of her genius professor brother, Gerry, and ends up unraveling a tale of first loves, obsession, and abuse set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz.
Morton is an exquisite storyteller but something about this book couldn’t capture my attention. I found my mind wandering as we worked our way through the quagmire of clues and relationships. Ultimately the ending was brilliant but I’m still deciding whether the ending alone was worth the feelings of fatigue that I suffered trying to get at it.
I think the problem really was one of character. Dorothy Smitham, later Nicholson, Laurel’s mother as a young woman isn’t likeable. She’s a snotty, devious little thing whose only aim seems to be to get whatever she wants in that moment. She’s embarrassed by her first love, Jimmy, a guy with only the best intentions who, a few months before she wanted to run away with and marry. Then she forbids him from coming to the house, where she works as a companion to a very wealthy lady, under the guise of rules of etiquette that must be observed, when really, she’s just embarrassed by him.
It might also be era fatigue on my part. Maybe I’m World War II/Blitzed out and just being set in that time period was enough to bring on the fatigue?
I really don’t know what it was. I should have enjoyed it. It had all of the elements that I normally enjoy: a love story, historical relevance, a whole houseful of sisters, intrigue. But putting the parts together this time didn’t thrill me the way they normally do. And I think that’s more me, than Ms. Morton because I’m sure that other people that have read this will disagree with me. Plus it’s hard to give a proper opinion on a book that relies so much on a mystery to make it exciting. I don’t want to give too much away in case I take away the enjoyment of finding out the ending for someone else.
Have you read it? What did you think? Am I off my rocker?