“The Secret Keeper” is the fourth novel by Australian author Kate Morton who has a huge following also in the United States. The novel is surely a page-turner, having a cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter, compelling the reader to continue on and forget about the housework.
When Laurel Nicolson was 16 years old, she witnessed from her perch in her treehouse a stranger approach her mother on the path. Her mother, Dorothy Nicolson, was carrying her youngest child, Gerald, and was holding a knife which she planned to use to cut Gerald’s birthday cake. The knife, instead, was plunged into the stranger, who dropped dead at the scene.
Fifty years later, at Dorothy’s 90th birthday in a nursing home, Laurel had researched what she could of the events leading up to and following the deadly stabbing she had witnessed. Life went on; the police believed the Nicolsons. The man was probably a pervert. Lauren failed to mention to the police, however, that the intruder had said “Hello, Dorothy.”
As a single person, Dorothy Smithan was an orphan brought to England from Australia. She managed to get a position with Lady Gwendolyn Caldecott who grew fond of Dorothy and had intimated that she would remember Dorothy in her will. Across the way, Dorothy became interested in the neighbors, Vivien and Henry Jenkins, a wealthy couple, out of Dorothy’s league. Dorothy, however, became acquainted with Vivien at the WVS (Women’s Volunteer Service) where they both served as their part of the war effort.
Even though Dorothy admired Vivien, Vivien snubbed her to the point where Dorothy wanted to get even with her. She suspected Vivien of having an affair with a doctor at the nearby hospital. She coaxed her boyfriend Jimmy, a photographer, to join her in a plot to catch Vivien and the doctor in a compromising position.
The reader is given insight into the lives of the three – Dorothy, Vivien, and the likeable Jimmy – in an extraordinary triangle which takes us on an incredible journey leading up to the events on the day of baby Gerald’s birthday party, and from there to the events on Dorothy’s 90th birthday party, when Laurel has finally put together the pieces of the puzzle which her mother would never speak about.
If there were clues about the final resolution in the last chapter, I for one never saw it coming. The war had taken a toll on everyone’s lives; the bombings in London brought people closer together as they helped each other out. Vivien proved to be a kinder person than Dorothy had imagined. She encouraged Dorothy to take a job away from the perils of London, which Dorothy promised to do; that is, before the blast came and they were lost to each other for good.
You must read this fourth novel of Kate Morton. I intend to read the first three which I have missed. She is a great storyteller.
The Secret Keeper (2012)