SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for October: Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley

by Sunita

I know, I know, it’s November so I’m really late, but I did read it (late in October but still October!). So here you go.

Kearsley is one of my favorite authors, but shockingly, I haven’t read all of her available books yet. This one has been in my print and ebook TBR piles for years. TheHusband read it quite a while ago and liked it a lot, but I kept saving it for later. The theme of this month’s challenge is Paranormal/Romantic Suspense, and this novel is at the edge of RS, but Wendy is always saying readers don’t have to follow the categories. Anyway, it’s mysterious and somewhat suspenseful and while it deals with the past, it’s not a timeslip or two-era storyline.

Kate Murray is a Canadian journalist living in London. She is just finishing up covering a trial when an old man approaches her and says he has an important story. She brushes him off, politely but still a brushoff, and as he’s walking away he is hit by a car and dies. Her remorse leads her to try and find out more about the man, Arthur Deacon, and the story he wanted to tell her, which was about a long-ago murder. She has a couple of strange encounters in England which put her on her guard, but it’s when she goes back to Canada that the story really heats up. Her beloved grandmother turns out to have some tantalizing bits of information that fit into Kate’s puzzle, but there are any number of people who don’t want that information to come out.

Kate becomes determined to search for the truth of what Deacon was telling her, a search which takes her back to Europe and to sites of events during World War II. She learns much more about her grandmother’s wartime life as a young single woman, which includes a stint in New York City working for the Canadian version of MI-6, and she finds that she is connected to Arthur Deacon in ways she could never have anticipated. Along the way she meets a mysterious man who is also seeking information on Deacon and the events he described, and they keep running into each other while they are conducting their respective interviews and searches for documentary evidence. Is the man a threat or on her side? It takes a while to find out and I wasn’t sure at all what was going to happen.

This isn’t a romance, although there are stories of romantic and other types of love that run through the novel. The most moving love stories are those involving Kate’s grandmother, grandfather, and Arthur Deacon, which I thought were really well depicted. Reader, I sniffled. You also get a strong sense of the danger that accompanied activities that took place well behind the front lines and the most well-known theaters of war, and Kearsley evokes the sense of place in her different settings beautifully. As for the mystery, I should have seen the villain coming but I didn’t. The final scenes with Kate and the villain felt a bit much, but they’re entirely within the tradition of the genre.

If I have any caveats about the novel, it’s that at times it feels very earnest. Kearsley is a writer with a strong social conscience and sense of responsibility to pay respect and homage to previous generations, and sometimes the way that comes through can work against the fluidity of the plot and writing. But that’s a small quibble. Overall I share her sympathies, and it was enormously satisfying to read about honorable people doing dangerous and important things to make the world a better place. Especially given how much reading about the opposite kinds of behavior we are all doing these days.