The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris is a different type of reading for me than what I am normally used to. While it takes place in Africa (and I’m all over books sets in Africa), it’s more of a mystery thriller, a genre that I usually avoid. I’m not really sure why, I don’t think I’ve ever had any bad experiences with the genre, in fact I don’t think it’s a genre that I’ve even really tried. Maybe to many different interests elsewhere? My first foray into the genre has me wondering if I should try a couple more books to see if it’s something that I should explore more.
In The Secret Keeper, Danny Kellerman, a British journalist, four years earlier landed the story of his lifetime when sent to Sierra Leone as a war correspondent to cover the political upheaval and civil war taking place there. Being on the front lines had always been his dream job, but what he didn’t expect was to fall in love with Maria, an American woman who ran a orphanage for ex-child soldiers. They have a brief but passionate relationship and when the crisis elevates he has no choice but to board a plane and go back home leaving Maria behind.
Four years later, Danny is living back in London with his girlfriend and is at odds with his father. Danny receives a letter from Maria which pleads for him to return to Sierra Leone because she’s in trouble and needs his help. But the letter didn’t arrive in time, and Danny learns that Maria was murdered just days earlier in a roadside robbery. Danny can’t shake the feeling that there isn’t something right and that there had to be more motive surrounding her death than just a “roadside robbery.”
Against his family and his girlfriend’s wishes, he returns to Sierra Leone to find answers. While there is a new type of peace in Sierra Leone, it’s not the same country that he left. Former rebel leaders now hold high offices in government and secrecy and corruption seem rampant. And asking to many questions about Maria gets Danny further into trouble and he soons finds himself in dangerous and life threatening situations. As he uncovers more of the mystery surrounding Maria’s death, he finds that she might not be the woman that he thought she was.
What I liked about this book was knowing that the author Paul Harris is a journalist turned novelist and that he spent time as a war correspondent in Africa covering the conflict in Sierra Leone. I found that completely fascinating and wondered how much of his experience was pulled into the novel. Thank goodness, I was able to ask Paul directly and you’ll be able to see some of his thoughts in my author interview which I’ll feature tomorrow. I will be the first to admit that I’m really ignorant on the political climate of Sierra Leone and I appreciate being introduced to new places and new people through fiction.
The Secret Keeper was fast paced with lots of twists and turns that had me unable to guess how the book would end. I liked the multiple story lines, one told in 2004 as Danny researches Maria’s death and the second in 2000 with Danny’s first trip to Sierra Leone and his falling in love with her. I enjoyed seeing how the two stories came together and revealed their relationship together as he was uncovering her death.
What I didn’t like about the book? Long time readers of my blog can probably guess that I am not a fan of lots of foul language. I can stand some language but when I feel like I’m getting bogged down with it than I get very distracted. At one point, I almost wish I had kept track of the number of times the “F-word” was used. When the characters get into a rollicking conversation, it could be as many as 5-6 a page. Of course, it’s not every page, but it’s just enough to make me a little hesitant to recommend it to those who like cleaner reads. On a good note, the sex scenes were very tastefully done. The “leave it to my imagination” kind.
I don’t think The Secret Keeper will make my top ten reads of the year, but overall, I liked it. It had a great storyline, believable characters, and set against a volatile background of war, greed, murder, and deceit, it makes for an intriguing read. I can also see it as a great movie. Plus, you know me and my Africa war books. I’m always up for anything that covers those type of issues. Just beware the language.
The Secret Keeper will be on tour the rest of May and into June with TLC Book Tours, so do check out what other bloggers are saying. As for me, I’m really curious to see what everybody else thinks. But that’s not all folks! Come back tomorrow for an interview with Paul Harris. I have to admit that this was one of my most intimidating interviews I’ve ever conducted. What do you ask a man who has risked his life covering war stories in Africa? You’ll find out. And as if that’s not enough, I got my hands on a second copy of The Secret Keeper, so I’ll be doing a giveaway tomorrow as well!
Do you have any other recommendations for books set in Sierra Leone? This is a topic that I’d love to read more about.
Links of interest: The Secret Keeper website. Blog stops with TLC Book Tours.
Publisher: Dutton Adult. April 2nd, 2009
Hardcover, 336 pages. ISBN: 0525951024
The Secret Keeper is available from your independent bookstore, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.