SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for October: Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley
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.
I was so happy to see your post this morning! I’ve missed you. I wanted to ask you a question: you mentioned a few posts back, I think in a Weeknote, that you use LibraryThing now in preference to Goodreads. I’ve started reading more again, and I wanted to catalog things; I’ve been using my local library. Can you say more, either here or in a post, (or if you’ve done so, please link me so I can read it), about LibraryThing and how you find it useful in your reading life? I’d love to know more.
Hi Catherine! It’s nice to be back posting. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up now that things have calmed down a bit.
I like LibraryThing chiefly for two reasons: it has half-stars in the ratings options, and it’s just cataloguing without comments and conversations. Not that I don’t want to talk about books, but GR is so social that you can’t not be social, really, unless you shut down your account to be totally private. I also like the reviews at LT, they are less skewed toward YA.
You can catalogue 200 books for free, and after that there’s a fee (I think it was $20) that is sometimes waived when they have some kind of promotion.
You’re alive! I’ve only read one Kearsley book so far (The Winter Sea) and I really liked it. I own others. Why am I not reading them? (Why am I not reading so much of my TBR?)
I am minimally social on Goodreads. I don’t use any groups, for instance. I think I joined one or two but I don’t remember to look at them. My reviews are minimalist and I mainly use it as a record of my reading and to see what my handful of friends are reading. But the mere existence of “likes” leads to wondering if anyone has “liked” my review. (And if not, why not? OMG.) There are definitely perverse incentives to social platforms and the feedback they give us.
@Liz: Oh, the likes. I know what you mean. The comments are fine, I meet new people that way (although sometimes I feel obliged to respond when I don’t have much time, and I’m terse, which can be misinterpreted). But I would watch the likes too. And the other thing about likes is that they push you up the review list (which you can’t control through their privacy options), which means more people see your stuff whether you like it or not. And given GR’s atmosphere, that can lead to encounters you don’t really want.
Lovely review. I read this when it first came out and have re-read it a time or three. I obviously enjoyed it, though I was somewhat surprised by the high body count.
Hi Liz! I like your small reviews. I write reviews for the same reason–so that I jog my memory about books I’ve read in the past. There are many times when I’ll look at my book log (which is date, title, author only) and come up blank—what was that book about?
Thanks, Barb! I can definitely see rereading this one. And good point about the body count. I definitely wasn’t expecting the Toronto death that set so much in motion.
I like small/short reviews too. Not everything has to be comprehensive.