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Tuesday 4 January 2022

‘What I Never Told You’ by Dawn Goodwin

Published by Head of Zeus,
6 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80024617-2 (PB)

The titles of most books have some relevance to what’s between the covers, but not many sum up the story quite as accurately as this one. Not only has the protagonist/narrator kept most of her past a secret from her husband, daughter and everyone else around her; pretty well every character in the book has something they’d rather didn’t become public knowledge.  

But as every reader of psychological thrillers knows, secrets have a way of coming back to haunt you, and that is what happens in this convoluted, tension-filled novel. It begins with a photograph which transports bookseller Helen Whitmore back into a past she has worked hard to bury: a past which changed the lives of several people and set Helen herself on a path which could have destroyed her. And now someone is threatening to spill the beans... 

The narrative is carefully structured, with interleaved chapters which relate the unfolding story in the present as Helen’s quiet life begins to teeter, and the destructive events in the past, when she was reaching the end of her schooldays and planning her escape from a dysfunctional home life which was stifling her.

In both time frames there is a cast of sharply drawn characters. The present includes steady but tedious husband Hugh, wayward stepson Matt, sparky daughter Mills who contrasts with subdued stepdaughter Lydia – and Diana, the human equivalent of the pebble tossed into the pool, causing ripples which affect everyone around her. In the past there’s motherly housekeeper Martha, who tries to fill the yawning gap between teenage Helen and the parents who ignore her. At school there’s spoilt brat and best friend Eloise, the opposite of mixed-race Tracey, whose warmth and supportive home life show Helen what she’s missing.

And then there’s the house, the common factor which links her teenage and adult years. It’s almost a character in itself, looming and brooding on the edge of a pretty village, a rambling almost-mansion beginning to crumble from lack of maintenance. Teenage Helen hates it, but a strange quirk of an ancestor’s will means she inherits it and can’t sell, so she is inexorably drawn back to her childhood home.

It’s the kind of novel that insists on just one more chapter, and then another, and another, as the two interlinked stories gradually unfold. And after a few climactic moments, there’s an explosive ending which will leave you reeling.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Dawn Goodwin’s career has spanned PR, advertising, publishing and healthcare, both in London and Johannesburg. A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing school, she loves to write about the personalities hiding behind the masks we wear every day, whether beautiful or ugly. What spare time she has is spent chasing good intentions, contemplating how to get away with murder, and immersing herself in fictitious worlds. She lives in London with her husband, two teenage daughters and British bulldogs Geoffrey and Luna.

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 Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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