2017 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · psychological · suspense · thriller

Book Review: The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Title: The Secrets She Keepsthe secrets she keeps.jpg

Author:  Michael Robotham

Published: July 11th 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 352

Genres:  Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Psychological, Suspense, Thriller

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 5 stars

In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of the secrets some women hold close and a shocking act that cannot be undone, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.

My review:

Michael Robotham is one of Australia’s most revered crime fiction novelists. Robotham has an impressive collection of awards under his belt. He is also best known for his series of books based on lead protagonist Joe O’Loughlin. To date, Robotham’s work seems to have escaped my attention, which is unfortunate as I really enjoyed his latest crime based psychological thriller, The Secrets She Keeps.

Agatha and Meghan are from opposite sides of the tracks but one thing they share is pregnancy. Both are in their third trimester, eagerly waiting the arrival of their new bundle of joy. While Agatha counts the days down by stacking shelves in a local supermarket, Meghan continues to work on her parenting blog, while raising her other two children. When the two women bond at the supermarket and then a yoga class, their relationship eventually takes a sinister turn. The Secrets She Keeps is about motherhood, longing, desperation and the things we keep hidden from others.

Kudos to Michael Robotham, he has entered the highly populated psychological thriller genre and submitted a deeply compelling novel that is a cut above the other books in this over populated genre. The Secrets She Keeps was an utterly compulsive read and one that I had much difficulty in tearing myself away from. I stayed up far too late to finish The Secrets She Keeps, as I just had to discover the final outcome of this riveting tale.

Robotham excels from the very beginning of this novel. I greatly admired his willingness and ability to write this novel from two female voices. He absolutely nails these two female protagonists. It would not have been a simple task to get the pregnant female narration right. This is perhaps reflective of Robotham’s skill as a writer. Both Agatha and Meghan’s voices were loud, clear and very authentic. The pregnancy, birth and motherhood side were handled extremely well. These sections of the narrative made me cast my mind back to my own pregnancy and birth stories. I found much semblance between Robotham’s words and my own personal experiences.

The style of narration in The Secrets She Keeps is a highlight of this book. It is shared evenly between our leads, Agatha and Meghan. By selecting a dual first person narrative, it is easy for the reader to quickly get hooked in the developing story. This format of narration also helps the reader understand the innermost thoughts, feelings and actions of the principal characters. It aided my sympathy and connection to the leads, Agatha and Meghan.

Robotham’s characterisation is top notch. Agatha in particular stood out, Robotham just seems to get her. Her story is terribly sad. Agatha’s back story allows Robotham to explore themes such as teen pregnancy, abuse, rape, abortion, forced adoption, infertility, marriage breakdown and even extremist religion. Robotham’s approach to these hard hitting themes was insightful, as well as fascinating. It was very difficult to turn my eyes from the pages of this book, despite the challenging experiences the lead characters are faced with. The novel’s other lead, Meghan, was just as good. I had a firm handle on this seemingly perfect wife and mum, who has secrets that will shatter her life. Meghan’s character presents Robotham with the opportunity to take a critical look at modern parenting .The men in this novel, from Meghan’s husband Jack, friend Simon and Agatha’s boyfriend all added complexity to this story. Each of their secrets, as well as their actions, brings an element of astonishment at many points of the story.

The Secrets She Keeps maintains a fast and steady pace through the whole length of the novel. I was drawn in immediately to this novel and my attention didn’t wane at any point. In fact, I would best describe my experience with this book as frantic. The events in the novel were shocking, with plenty of twists and plot complications. The secrets in the novel were plentiful and they were real corkers at that! Well done to master storyteller Michael Robotham. I didn’t see the final outcome of the novel transpiring in the way it did.

There is much more I would like to stay about this emotionally driven novel, but for fear of exposing plot details I’m going to move into cop out territory and urge you to find out how great this novel is for yourself. I am highly recommending this intense psychological thriller. The Secrets She Keeps features a disturbingly real narrative, a well drawn London based setting, solid characterisation – all of which is set to a merciless pace. It is just past the half way mark in the year but I am certain The Secrets She Keeps is my pick for the best crime based psychological thriller for 2017.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham was published on July 11th 2017 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Secrets She Keeps, Michael Robotham, visit here.

 

 

 

 

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