Every Secret Thing is the third book I’ve read by Susanna Kearsley. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the other two – The Rose Garden and Mariana – but that could just be because it’s a different type of novel and didn’t include some of the elements that I loved in the others I’ve read.
Kate Murray is a Canadian journalist who has been sent to London to report on an important criminal trial. While she is there, she meets Andrew Deacon, an old man who tells her he knew her grandmother and that he has an important story to tell her. He invites Kate to come to his hotel for dinner that night, but as he begins to walk away he is hit by a car and is killed. As Kate tries to find out what the connection was between Deacon and her grandmother, more suspicious deaths occur and it seems that someone wants to stop Kate from uncovering any more information. And when Kate’s investigations lead her to Portugal, she finds herself caught up in a wartime mystery involving espionage and murder in 1940s Lisbon.
Every Secret Thing has also been published under the name Emma Cole, presumably as it is a slightly different genre to her other books and might appeal to different readers. The writing style is the same, but although this book does still have a historical storyline told through the recollections of the various people Kate speaks to, there’s no time travel, reincarnation or any of the other paranormal elements that appear in Susanna Kearsley’s other novels. I would describe this book as similar to a Mary Stewart suspense novel. I know I’ve compared Kearsley to Mary Stewart before, but I can’t help mentioning it again because she does remind me of her so much.
One of the things I found interesting about this book was the way it covered so many different aspects of World War II that I didn’t know much about. We find out what life was like for a young woman in New York City during the war, for example, and we are given some insights into what was involved in working for British secret intelligence. We also learn a little bit about all the intrigue and espionage that was taking place in Portugal throughout the war. Lisbon is such a fascinating setting for a World War II novel – as a neutral port, it was a centre of operations for spies and agents from both the Allied and Axis forces and also an important escape route for refugees.
Kate Murray is a likeable narrator but the most memorable character in the book for me was Andrew Deacon. Although he dies right at the beginning of the story, we get to know him through the memories of the other characters whose lives he touched in one way or another, including his secretary Regina Marinho, his nephew James Cavender and of course, Kate’s grandmother. The only problem I really had with this book was that I thought the plot relied too heavily on coincidences and chance meetings. One or two of these in a novel isn’t a problem but when there are too many of them everything starts to feel too convenient and unrealistic. So, not my favourite book by Susanna Kearsley/Emma Cole but I still enjoyed it and if there are going to be more books about Kate Murray I’ll be happy to read them.