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Posted on 17 Sep 2019 in Fiction |

SUSANNA KEARSLEY Every Secret Thing. Reviewed by Amelia Dudley

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Susanna Kearsley explores the impact of wartime secrets in Every Secret Thing.

The award-winning author of Mariana is best-known for time-slip romances moving between the present and the distant past. Every Secret Thing, however, is a book somewhere between crime fiction, romance and thriller that focusses on more modern history.

A nondescript elderly man, Andrew Deacon, dies in a hit-and-run before Kate Murray’s eyes, right after telling her he has evidence of an old murder that he’d like to share with a journalist. Upset that she didn’t try to listen and disturbed that she can’t even really remember his face, Kate tries to discover what Deacon might have wanted to tell her:

There was an old man eating on his own, two tables over in the dining room of my hotel. I found that my attention, all through supper, travelled back to him, because of that – because he was an old man, quiet, someone I might easily have overlooked. And because it occurred to me that Andrew Deacon could have sat there last night, or the night before, and I might not have noticed him, either.

Retracing Deacon’s steps and trying to learn what his story might have been proves difficult, as many of the people he knew are gone. One who remains greatly surprises Kate, who learns for the first time about her grandmother’s work for the British Government during the Second World War:

It was almost as if Andrew Deacon’s death had flipped some hidden switch inside her; as if, like him, she’d suddenly decided that the time to keep silent had come to an end. It was now time to speak.

The story seamlessly blends Kate’s first-person conversations with her grandmother and others connected to Deacon with third-person accounts of their pasts. As Kate pursues the story, she learns that she is putting herself and others in danger. She ends up on the run and unable to trust the police, given that the Official Secrets Act is potentially involved. Kate knows she needs to find answers and expose the murderer, otherwise, she’ll never be able to live a normal life again.

This is a very well-researched, thoughtful and witty book:

I was smiling now, because of that, and [he], not knowing the source of my happiness, appeared to put it down to his own charms.

The plot contains some interesting and intricate war-time politics. Deacon’s past is quite touching and the murderer cunning and conniving. Kate needs to uncover not only who the murderer was but also the victim, adding another mystery to be solved.

Every Secret Thing also reveals the challenges of intelligence work during the war: being called a coward and getting white feathers in the post but never being able to tell anyone that you actually did do something really important.

In her Author’s Note at the end of the book, Susanna Kearsley explains that what inspired the novel was hearing about an old man who had written a report about something that happened during the war. He died before he was able to meet with a journalist to make whatever it was public:

So Andrew Deacon grew from that, a grey and faceless shadow at my shoulder who would not allow me to rest until I put him on the page.

Perhaps, somewhat appropriately, this is much the same way that Kate thinks of Deacon at the start of the book. That is, until she learns more about his past and exposes the murderer, of course.

Susanna Kearsley Every Secret Thing Alison and Busby 2010 464pp $17.99 (originally published under the pseudonym Emma Cole)

Amelia Dudley is currently taking a break from a Master’s degree focussing on plant biology. She is the proud aunt of many nieces and nephews. In her spare time she reads, gardens, draws, paints and doesn’t get to do enough writing.

You can buy Every Secret Thing from Booktopia here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.