Books: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I hesitate to say if you've read one Kate Morton book you've read them all, but I've read two, and they are very much alike.

You might recall I really enjoyed The House at Riverton. But when I picked up The Secret Keeper, I developed an almost instantaneous sense of déjà vu. The books are structured in very similar ways, what with the modern-day frame story and the flashbacks to an earlier time. It's a fine formula, I guess, but having read Riverton, I had The Secret Keeper's secret(s) figured out well ahead of the characters, turning what might've been an intriguing mystery into a kind of trudge toward the inevitable. All the details of the prose, which are indeed lovely, became obstacles to be skimmed as I skated toward the conclusion, trying to divine whether I'd been right in my guesses. (Answer: yes.)

Still. It's a solid piece of writing with very neatly drawn characters. The one I feel like we could have used more details on was Vivien. She more than the others felt a bit more hastily cobbled, relying in large part on literary gesticulation. Something about her just didn't ring quite true . . . As if she were too good to be true, maybe.

The story, for those who might wonder, is of how aging actress Laurel and her brother Gerry strive to piece together the mystery of their dying mother's shadowy past. They have other sisters, but these women pass through and around the narrative, and it is Laurel and Gerry who have the particular connection because when they were younger they witnessed their mother [insert inciting incident here]. And while they've gone on with their lives keeping this childhood secret, apparently there's no better time than when Mum is on her deathbed and more or less incapable of answering questions to start dredging up all that kind of thing.

Again, flashes of Riverton, wherein a dying woman relates to her grandson the true story of a murder that occurred in a house she'd worked in. Just so similar in style and technique, these two books.

So I have to wonder if I'd have liked Riverton less if I'd read it second? Because while The Secret Keeper was good, it wasn't as good, and I'm inclined to believe I feel that way because reading it felt a bit like eating warmed over leftovers.

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