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Book review: <i>Keep No Secrets</i> by Julie Compton

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the cover of the book

It took me a while to figure out why I got so into this book, and then I had an epiphany – it's like a super exciting and stretched out episode of Law and Order IN BOOK FORM. And I do love me a bit of L and O.

The story

Jack Hilliard, District Attorney, is getting his marriage back together, after one mistake four years ago almost cost him everything. His wife, Claire, has been trying to forgive him for his night of indiscretion with their friend and co-worker, Jenny Dodson. After being cleared of a murder charge, Jenny disappeared, giving Jack and Claire the opportunity to get their life back together. Jack's youngest son, Jamie, loves his father. But his eldest, Michael, still hasn't forgiven Jack for his indiscretion. And Michael seems to be expressing his displeasure by dating a girl who looks just like Jenny Dodson.

One night Jack stumbles upon the kids, drunk and fooling around in the lounge-room late at night. He drives Michael's girlfriend Celeste home, but opts not to tell her incredibly strict father she was drinking, out of a sense of sympathy. He also senses that Celeste has been abused, but when he confronts Michael about it Michael denies it. Jack feels like he did the right thing, and won back some of Michael's love at the same time.

And then, all hell breaks loose. Celeste claims that Jack raped her on the drive home, and the circumstantial evidence against him is mounting. She won't back down, and Claire and Michael look at Jack like just maybe, they don't believe him any more. People start muttering that he should step down from his job, he's hounded by the press, and to top it all off, Jenny comes back into town and he isn't satisfied about her explanation why.

Can Jack clear his name, save his marriage, and regain the respect of his eldest son? Or, because of his past mistake, has everything gone too far for redemption?

The style

Tell No Secrets is racy and well paced, and there's a lot of it. So there's quite a few of twists and turns in the plot line, and frankly, I was pretty well addicted after the first chapter. It's the second book I've read about a DA instead of a police officer in the last week, so I'm wondering if DA's are the latest craze in crime fiction. Not that it isn't an interesting new take on reading crime. Tell No Secrets combined action and emotion, so the reader doesn't just read what's happening, but also reads a lot of feelings, some fights, some inter-familial interaction. Obviously the plot accentuates emotional elements in the family; you don't have a rocky marriage in the plot if you aren't going to make a meal of it. But it's one of the things that keeps the reader engaged. I WANTED to know if Jack could be proven innocent and I WANTED his son to like him and I WANTED him and his wife to resolve their issues. It just added another element to the reading.

Tell No Secrets is written in the third person limited, mainly following Jack, but occasionally flicking to another character while not giving anything away. Like the thing was basically written to be a movie. Which it could be. I have two complaints about the actual writing; firstly, it was written in the present tense. Sort of. I say sort of because yes, it was in the present tense, aside from when it wasn't, ie, when there was some explanation of back story happening. Which was a LOT. And that meant that it felt as though the tense was constantly changing. And even though it was written in a manner that was completely technically correct with regard to tense, it was also incredibly jolting to me. Every time it switched to present (because we're so used to reading in past) I got pulled out of the reading experience, and I would have preferred not to, because I was totally getting lost in the book up till that point. I agree, present tense makes everything feel more immediate, but if you have to delve into a lot of past tense then probably just bite the bullet and go past all the way. My second complaint would be that for the most part I found the dialogue good, but there were moments where I found it a little constrained. I have never heard an actually person use the word 'simply' in speech, ie, “I was simply looking to see if it was in my shoe.” But simply made some regular appearances. You know what? It could be an Australian thing. Just because we don't say it doesn't mean it doesn't happen in the states. So I could just be being picky. But these two things stood out for me.

They didn't stand out enough to stop me reading or anything though! Also, kudos to Compton for making some tough choices with the ending of Keep No Secrets, and keeping the plot heavy on twisty suspense the whole time. I liked where it went and how it ended.

Who is this book for?

If I could have taken this book on holiday, I would have. I can actually picture reading it by a pool, in nice long stretches where I'm not going to be disturbed. Just because I don't get a holiday till June doesn't mean you guys should feel bad about hopping on a plane with it. I'll just stew in jealousy over here. This is the very picture of escapist holiday reading.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Seriously, take your pick. Go to Crime Fiction and read anything over a seven.

In short

Title: Keep No Secrets
Author: Julie Compton
Publisher: Fresh Fork Publishing
Year published: 2013
Pages: 344
Genre(s): Crime Fiction
Review Type: