Review: The Secret Keeper, Kate Morton

So! Kate Morton! In the past I’ve had some feelings about the way Kate Morton does her plots and sentences. This has bothered me in different degrees for different books — The House at Riverton was close to pure joy (I was reading it on vacation) but did not stand up to rereads, and The Forgotten Garden bugged me with some heavy-handed plot devices. But The Secret Keeper is her fourth book, and some of the tics I didn’t love in the first two I’ve read are gone now, and overall it was a fun, engaging, non-annoying read.

As a teenager, Laurel witnessed a crime in her home, and she has tried her best to forget it. But now, fifty years and a full career as an actress later, Laurel’s mother Dorothy is close to death, and she feels that she must find out the truth behind what she saw before it’s too late. Since her mother is reluctant to talk about her past, Laurel begins to look into the days before her parents met. In alternating chapters, we see the early years of the vivacious Dorothy, from her childhood in Coventry to a job as a lady’s maid to a WVS worker in London. THERE ARE SECRETS.

What I liked: The plot was a lot of fun. Young Dorothy (Dolly, as she was then, aw) was entertainingly full of schemes for advancing her life to get what she wanted. I love a scheme. She has schemes for making friends and schemes for concealing her boyfriend from her man-hating old lady employer, and schemes generally for moving up in the world and finding a happy family. I was pleased every time the pov switched to Dolly so I could enjoy her scheming.

What I sometimes but not always liked: Laurel’s plotline. She didn’t have that much to do. I liked it the best when she was hanging out with Gerald and they were each doing their own line of research. When Laurel was on her own, I felt like she was adrift. She had feelings about her past and wanted to figure out how her delightful perfect mother (there was a lot of reiteration of this point, the delightful perfectness of her mother) could have had a shady mixed past. Which is fine, but it’s more fun when she has someone to talk to (Gerald) about the issues that are plaguing her.

What I didn’t care for: The modern-day characters were kinda boring. Laurel has three sisters in addition to the brother, and I’m still not sure what the point of them was. They never add anything to the research Laurel is doing, except to occasionally say a random thing in passing that helps Laurel to a realization about what went on in her mother’s past. You don’t get a good sense of what Dolly’s [whatever drastic action she took! I won’t spoil it for you] ultimately brought to her life, because the present-day family relationships are rarely given much attention.

If you’re in the mood for an engaging historical mystery with some fun-if-guessable twists and reversals of fortune, Kate Morton’s your girl.

I received this e-book for review through NetGalley.

20 thoughts on “Review: The Secret Keeper, Kate Morton

  1. Why are you CONSTANTLY posting reviews of the same books BEFORE my reviews post? Obviously, you are TAPPING INTO WORDPRESS and checking out my schedule! (oh, doesn’t this sound like a spam post? mwahhaha) Okay, so I don’t know when mine is scheduled to run (BECAUSE PROBABLY YOU KNOW BUT I DON’T – ha ha) but I was not liking it for a long time, especially because I was seriously hating Dolly, and therefore it was putting a serious damper on my feeling family love for these people. And then, well, YOU know, having read it!!! So at the end, I was loving it again…

  2. I have this book, and another one by Morton, and haven’t given her a try yet. It sounds like this would be an excellent place to start, though to be truthful, I would probably prefer the historical bits to the present day parts as well. I’m glad that you enjoyed this one. It sounds rather interesting to me. Very nice review today, Jenny!

  3. I’m glad to hear this was non-annoying! I reaaaaaaally didn’t get along with The Forgotten Garden – it brought out all the snark and snobbishness in me, which is something I don’t particularly appreciate, and as a result I’ve hesitated to ever read her again.

    • I can understand why. She has some writing tics that are annoying, but I will say that when you’re in the mood for this kind of thing she completely hits the spot. Like a Coke-strawberry-swirl Icee.

  4. I feel like I’ve been meaning to try Kate Morton forever, but the length of her books keeps making me pick up something else instead. I really need to remedy that, even though you didn’t LOVE this one I’m definitely intrigued.

  5. Kate Morton’s a great name. Other than that, I don’t have a lot to contribute here.

    Do your tags give away the surprise, madam? DO THEY.

    • THEY DO NOT. I would never do that. I know that while I do not personally care about spoilers, other people do. The mother kills someone in like the first forty pages. And that’s fair game, right?

      (That “right?” = not rhetorical. I really don’t know what counts as spoilers and not, on account of my personal life choice to spoil everything for myself ASAP.)

  6. It sounds alright, but I was so put off by The House At Riverton that I’m thinking I might give the rest a miss until I’ve got through a lot of other books. The characters who are there to provide revelations sounds a bit annoying, as do the reminders of the perfect mother.

  7. Eh, I feel like I would have enjoyed this more when I was sixteen – that’s how I felt about The House at Riverton. But you are right. I would not kill anybody. (Well, unless they had a gun to my daughter’s head, in which case, something very bad is about to happen.)

    • I think The Distant Hours is the one I still haven’t read. I’ll read it sometime when I’m on vacation — I think Kate Morton is best for when you’re on a vacation.

  8. Just you bolding “THERE ARE SECRETS” makes me want to read this. I can her your voice (what I imagine your voice to be) saying this, in almost a whisper…

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