The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

This book is told in three different timelines, 1940s, 1960s, and 2011 England with four different narrators: Laurel (1960s + 2011) and Dorothy, Jamie, and Violet (1940s).

1960s

Greenacres

Laurel Nicolson is 16-years old. They are having a party for her little brother Gerald, but instead of going out to the yard to join them in the picnic, she stole away from her large family to the barn loft to read a play and dream about her motorcycle driving bad boy crush.

She decides to go in the treehouse as it is cooler and a better spot. She is sitting up there and spots her mom, Dorothy, holding her little brother and the special birthday cake cutting knife. When all of a sudden a man approaches her mother and brother. She can see her mother is upset, scared? She sets Gerald down as the man speaks to her, and then Laurel watches her mother stab the man, killing him.

The police are called and when questioned, both Laurel and Dorothy’s stories match up with self-defense and that ends the event. Laurel forgets all about it and when she turns 18, leaves the farm and heads to London to pursue acting.

2011

London and Greenacres

Laurel has become a successful actress and has never returned home. She’s stayed in touch and isn’t separated from her family, she just never returned to the farm. Now it is her mom’s 90th birthday, and the family is getting all together to celebrate. Dorothy has dementia and resides in a facility, so Laurel decides to stay at Greenacres.

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While there the whole memory of the killing comes back to her. More questions arise when she looks through their mother trunks that were always off-limits growing up. Laurel realizes that she has no clue who her mother was, and sets out to find out who she was.

I thought I knew my mother, but I was wrong.

1940s

London

Dorothy Smitham has always wanted the finer things in life, to be more-have more. She falls in love with Jimmy Metcalfe, aspiring photographer. She wants to get married, but Jimmy wants to have a job, money, and a place. He goes to London and travels around photographing the city and World War II.

Dorothy follows him to London and starts renting an old closet in a boarding house (housing shortage) and searching for a job. Her friend’s father, a psychologist, gets her hired as a companion to a Lady.

There Dorothy gets the taste of the high life and becomes consumed with moving up. She has always loved nice things and now she lusts after it-doing all she can to be the one the lady leaves her money and wealth to. She cuts all her true friends and Jimmy, to make sure she is exactly what her employer wants.

Dorothy also becomes obsessed with the beautiful socialite across the street, Violet Jenkins. She meets her at a WAC meeting and does all she can to emulate her, and believes them to be friends.

But when Dorothy is betrayed and finds Violet to be at fault, she searches out Jimmy and has him join her in a plan to get back at Violet and get the money to run away and start a farm.

But things don’t according to plan. Violet and Jimmy fall in love and someone winds up dead. Will Laurel be able to handle the truth about her mother?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved it. It was really interesting, completely compelling, and had one fantastic twist of an ending.

For more books that take place during World War I, go to The Butterfly and the Violin

For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Phantom of the Opera

Death Wears a Beauty Mask

Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

Thoughts Before Reading:

Mary Higgins Clark wrote this book way back in the ’70s, but never finished it as she wasn’t sure how to end it. She shelved it and went on to write what would be her first book and bestseller, Where Are the Children?

Years later, she took another whack at it s here we are.

Janice Broad hasn’t seen her older sister, Alexandra, in forever. They used to be so close with Janice raising her after their mother died. Then Janice moved to New York City and started her modeling career and their time together grew less. When Janice moved to the LA area for college their time shrinked smaller still.

Now Janice is married and she and her husband, District Attorney Mike Broad, are heading to spend a week of their honeymoon in London and then a week with her.

Yay! Sisters back together.

When they get to the airport, Janice isn’t there. Nor is she at her apartment, and no one knows what happened to her.

They start questioning the men who are hounding her-first Grant Wilson, her agent. Alexandra was the face of a new line, Beauty Mask, but had been having troubles. The company producing Beauty Mask was making them do constant redos, over and over again. Alexandra looked bad and tired.

Grant had been after Alexandra to marry him but she kept saying no. He thinks that she will be sing yes soon, but then she just disappeared. Now he needs her redo the Venice shoot or else the company goes belly up as Beauty Mask won’t pay up without perfection. He says he has no clue to where she is. Could it be he did something because she kept refusing him?

They then see Larry Thompson, photographer. He has known Alexandra from way back. He hates Grant Wilson and never wanted Alexandra to sign with him. He says ever since she’s joined his company, Wilson has just overworked her and worn her out.  Larry tries to make it be that they are just friends, but he seems more interested, and to me extremely bossy, then just as a friend. He is also known to have a very short fuse. Could he have exploded on Alexandra? Or been angry if she could have refused him?

Mark Ambrose is the man who owns the plane that chartered the models and Beauty Mask. He too was another man interested in Alexandra and she too spent time in Venice together. He was supposed to give her a ride to her apartment, but then Alexandra disappeared. Hmm…what happened in Venice or the airport that made her change her mind?

Hmm…

As the couple investigates, they get in a car accident, who did they talk to that felt uneasy?

Then they find out Alexandra got the time wrong and was in the same cab as them and went back to the apartment. But when they get there they found out she has been strangled to death, her face covered Beauty Mask.

But when they do the autopsy, they discover that it isn’t Alexandra, but Lisa Markey, Alexandra’s friend. What happened to Alexandra. Is she alive? Dead? Where is she?

Thoughts After Reading:

Good, really well written until the reveal that the only reason the person was trying to kill Alexandra was because they wanted beauty mask to fail to make money.

That’s it?

A bit of a letdown for me.

But other than that I thought it was really good. I liked that she didn’t go overboard on the characters. But kept the cast short and focused.

And there was this cute little salute to her other novel as if you listen to what Alexandra hears on the news, there is a little snippet about Clark’s first book Where Are the Children?

At one point the detective says I should have known who it was because _________, and I was like facepalm! Duh, I should’ve known too!

For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to Where Are You Now?

For more modeling mysteries, go to The Turquoise Trail Mystery

For more disappearing sisters, go to The Night Sister

For more mysterious honeymoons, go to Death by Honeymoon

The Cat Who Turned On and Off

Merry Christmas! Let’s celebrate with our final Christmas Mystery!

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“Why don’t you go ahead, Qwill, and do a Christmas series on antiquing?’ ‘I hate antiques [Qwill said]…Look, Arch, I wanted to write something with guts! What can I do with antiques?” (pgs. 13-14)

Book three picks up several months after The Cat Who Ate Danish ModernQwill’s family has extended to include a a female feline friend for Koko, Yum Yum. The trio have moved out of the VV, as they were only watching Harry’s place for a month, and Qwill is currently searching for an apartment as the motel he is living in isn’t the best place for him and his animals. It is almost Christmas and Qwill is a little depressed ar his prospects as Cokey broke up with him for an engineer. Qwill now has no date for the Christmas Eve party, he is still writing about interior design, his ex’s parents are begging him…

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The Italian Wife

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The Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall

The year is 1922 and Isabella Berotti is a young, expectant mother living in Milan. She and her husband are visiting the outdoor markets when he is shot and killed. Isabella rushes over to help him, and is shot in the back, losing her baby and ability to walk.

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Ten years later, Isabella has used all that frustration and grief to motivate her into walking, only suffering from a slight limp, and achieve her dream of becoming an architect. She is currently residing in Bellina, helping to achieve Mussolini’s dream of reclaiming the marshlands for Italy, and creating a modern state.

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While life has been good, the day of the accident and death of her husband still haunts her. This anniversary she is spending her time reminiscing at a café, when a woman approaches her asking if she could watch her daughter Rosa. Before she can refuse, the woman whispers that “they” know who really killed Isabella’s husband and takes off. Intrigued as to what the woman may know, Isabella sits with Rosa, entertaining her. Everything is fine until Isabella sees the woman throw herself off a building Isabella created.

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Now Isabella finds herself caught up in a web of political intrigue, as Rosa proves to be a powerful piece both the fascists and the rebels wish to use. She teams up with a photographer, Roberto Falco, to protect Rosa, remain out of prison, bring to light the dirty deals in government, and finally solve who murdered her husband.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I absolutely loved this book.

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I thought it was thrilling, interesting, and impossible to put down. The historical truths of Mussilini attempting to control and reshape the land, even going as far as building cities and farms in impossible places, was a fascinating backdrop and made me interested to learn even more.

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The writing was extremely well done and the characters are multi-dimensional, lovable, and always exceeding my expectations as to what would happen next. In fact, I am not only looking forward to her next project, but planning on reading everything she has written prior to this novel.

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I would give it five out of five stars.

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For more stand alone mysteries, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more mysteries, go to The Silence of the Llamas