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Sunday, 1 March 2020
‘A Secret Life’ by Christobel Kent
Published by Sphere,
20 February 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-6884-4 (PB)
Three thirty-something women leave their nearest and dearest at home and head for the bright lights of Soho on a girls' night out. There are drinks, and dancing, and a little bit of flirting: all harmless fun. Except...
When Georgie gets home to husband Tim and five-year-old Tabs, there's a dent in her car which she has no recollection of putting there, a strange number on her mobile phone, and a big gap in her memory. Her friend Cat is no help; not only did she sleep right through whatever happened in that gap, she also has problems of her own which are about to come to crisis point. And as for Holly, the third member of the party – she turns up dead in a bedsit not far from the club they visited for their night out.
Then a huge bouquet arrives, and a strange man leaves a message on Georgie's voicemail. And Tim isn't exactly behaving normally...
There are secrets in every marriage, and mostly they're fairly harmless; we all need a touch of mystery in our lives, after all. But Georgie's secret is in danger of getting out of hand, and she is unsure of herself, and ill-equipped to deal with the situation. Christobel Kent has a steady hand on the tiller as her protagonist's quiet provincial life threatens to unravel around her, and it becomes plain that people aren't what they appear to be.
A Secret Life unfolds slowly, charting the interaction, or lack of it, between the characters, and the vague sense of menace that starts to permeate Georgie's life. Who can she rely on? Not Cat, who is too caught up in her own issues. Frank, the friendly barman at the club? Maybe. Tim, the husband who likes everything to be just so, and has subtle ways of showing his feelings if it's not? Alarm bells there.
It's the kind of novel that makes you feel uneasy. There's a sense right from the start that it's all going to end in tears, or worse, so that when all is revealed at the end it's almost a relief. It's a dark, brooding example of domestic noir, the sub-genre that's growing in popularity, and is something that Christobel Kent is something of an expert at. Read it at your peril; you may never quite trust anyone close to you again.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Christobel Kent was born in London in 1962 and now lives in Cambridge with her husband and four children; in between she lived in Florence. She worked in publishing for several years, most recently as Publicity Director at Andre Deutsch. Her debut novel A Party in San Niccolo, was published in 2003.
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 in Oxfordshhire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.