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Tuesday, 6 November 2012
‘Sworn Secret’ by Amanda Jennings
A mystery, and possibly even a murder, lies at the heart of this accomplished debut work – but it all adds up to much more than a straightforward crime novel.
Brilliant, beautiful fifteen-year-old Anna Thorne died in tragic circumstances a year before the book begins, and her family and friends are having a hard time dealing with their grief. Her mother Kate frantically paints portraits of Anna, and lurches between violent mood swings and blanking the world out.
Her father Jon tries to bury his own feelings in order to hold the family together, and also support his mother, who has troubles of a different kind. Her sister Lizzie, on the cusp of adulthood, misses Anna desperately but also craves some life of her own. It’s all made harder for everyone concerned when devastating details emerge about Anna’s relationships and character, prompting a whole heap of new questions about whether her death really was the accident they are all desperate to believe it was.
Jennings creates a delicate balance between the emotional rollercoaster and the enigma of Anna’s death. Without a shred of mawkishness or sentimentality, she gets inside each family member’s head and explores their different ways of coming to terms with the ongoing trauma of losing Anna; and threads the mystery element through their journeys in a way which creates a page-turner that makes the reader ache to know the outcome.
Perhaps most important of all, she creates a cast of characters it’s impossible not to care about, and gives them a life which one feels will continue long after the story reaches its conclusion.
Amanda Jennings is an author to watch; I’ll certainly be looking out for her next novel.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Lynne Patrick used to run a highly-regarded small publishing company specializing in crime fiction.