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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

‘Can You Keep a Secret?’ by Karen Perry

Published by Penguin Michael Joseph,
30 November 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-405-92033-9 (TPB)

Secrets and lies: two factors which lie at the heart of the best psychological thrillers. Add to that a generous helping of dark doings in the past, and the result has to be a winner.

Twenty years ago Lindsey was welcomed into the home of her schoolmate and best friend Rachel, and relished a taste of a different way of life from her own rather mundane background. She revelled in the freedom of a light-handed approach to parenting, sampled some of the privileges that money could buy, and basked in the warmth of Rachel's friendship and the camaraderie of the circle of chums who gathered around the family. Until a darker side began to emerge and everything began to go wrong...

Now, twenty years older and a forensic analyst with the Dublin police, Lindsey finds herself drawn to Patrick, Rachel's brother, who still lives in the wonderful old house. But Patrick can no longer afford to run the place, and plans a weekend party to say goodbye to it before the developers move in. It's at the party that the past begins to unravel. Old secrets bubble to the surface; old lies are exposed. And that's only the beginning...

Karen Perry sets herself a real challenge with this book. The narrative alternates between the two time frames, each peopled mainly by the same set of characters. The easy part was creating a world similar enough to the modern one, but without mobile phones and the trappings of technology. Much harder must have been the characters: on the verge of adulthood in one time frame, grown-up and launched in life in the other.

The author has met that challenge head on and made it work, in part by planting personality traits in the teenage versions which carry forward into adult life in a way which left me believing wholeheartedly in both. Rachel's brittleness; Marcus's sensitivity; Niall's bumptiousness; even Hilary's decision to take control of her own destiny instead of going with the tide. Lindsey herself has been shaped by the past, and will probably continue in similar vein.

Thornbury, the house, has an almost Manderley-like quality: in the past it feels like a place in a dream, but in the present harsh reality has invaded. And throughout the book there is a sense of underlying chaos, which will only be resolved when the truth is out.

It all ends badly, of course, much as a reader of psychological thrillers would expect. The justice, such as it is, is of the cosmic variety, also to be expected, and not always even-handed, which makes it feel even more real.

Karen Perry is gaining a solid reputation; this book can only help that along.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Photograph  © Edmund Ross
Karen Perry is the pseudonym for Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books including The Drowning of the Saints, Goldsmith's Ghost, 108 Moons, The Orchid Keeper, and most recently The Last Falcon and Small Ordinance. A winner of The Hennessy New Irish Writer of The Year Award, he is a Lecturer in Creative Writing for Kingston University, London, Writer Fellow for University College Dublin and Course Director in Poetry for the Faber Academy in Dublin.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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