Signature Books (Salt Lake City), 1995.
Suggested retail price: $15.95 (US)
An LDS investigative reporter who helped put a murderer behind barsfinds she has a psychic link to the murder and discovers more of his secrets.
I was looking forwarding to reading this novel because, it being published bySignature which doesn't have the same restrictions as the regular LDSpublishers (Deseret, Bookcraft, Covenant, etc.), I thought the possibilitieswere greater. Well, I still believe the possibilities are greater whenpublishing outside mainstream Mormon publishers, but Secrets Keep wasn'tsuccessful at exploring them.
The one thing that did and still interests me about Secrets Keep wasLinda's apparent attempt to write a "national style" book based in Mormoncountry with many Mormon characters. The main thrust of the book combinesmystery, detective work, and psychological horror with the flavors of manypopular national writers in these genres. On a much lesser scale SecretsKeep deals with issues that are national issues but take on a particular huebecause the characters dealing with them are Mormons -- issues such ashomosexuality and adultery.
As a novel in general (compared with the typical novel found near checkstands in super markets) I found Secrets Keep a very slow read. More aboutthat later. As a Mormon novel I found that Secrets Keep is not. The portionof the novel where the characters being Mormon really makes a difference fromif the characters were not Mormon is very small, and the difference that itdoes make is for the most part tossed aside. More on this now.
The only element of the story that would interest someone who wants to read anovel dealing with issues from a Mormon perspective is the subplot where anactive LDS man abandons his wife and children due to the belatedpsychological rift brought on by his brother's suicide (due to the socialpressures of his being homosexual). This, to me, was the truely interestingpart of the novel with great possibilities in exploring the Mormon culture.However, the author gives this subplot only minor page space and I almostwonder why it shares a part in the novel. It is mainly the LDS family membersof the runaway who make up the novel, but their Mormoness is treated the waymost average non-Mormons probably see Mormons -- as just another human beingwho happens to be Mormon. There is certainly no sin in writing Mormoncharacters this way, but it makes tagging characters as "Mormon" rathermeaningless. For example, in the book we have an unmarried Mormon sister ofthe runaway having an affair with a married man (black and non-Mormon) bywhom she becomes pregnant. Possible issue(s) here? But the author writesthis subplot as if she were writing the average affair scene for a harlequin.Sure there are all kinds of Mormon women, some of whom may be just like theadulterous sister, but as far as I could tell, the sister did not have aMormon soul. Neither did the book. But then, I don't believe the author setout to write a Mormon novel in the first place.
As a national novel (and by that I mean a novel that isn't interested inexploring the Mormon culture) I found it tiresome. The plot of the bookrelies heavily on the paranormal and psychic. I'll admit I've always had aproblem with movies and books that deal with the paranormal because I am leftwith too many "whys?" An investigative reporter, sister to the runaway andthe adulterous sister, gains psychic ties to a murderer who she helped put injail. Working with a detective she uncovers other murders and past secrets byseeing things that have happened through the murderers eyes. It is writtenwith all the ambiguity that usually accompanys the unexplainable. I believeit is the paranormal theme of the book that is supposed to carry it, but forme it became a major obstacle. I don't buy in to the psychic. I don'tdiscount it either. But never having had experience with the psychic, I, as areader would require some prepping. There was very little prepping in thebook. It was just written as if it is an issue that the average person dealswith daily. Most of the suspense was lost because the murderer is already injail to begin with. It could have been much more gripping if the psychicevents were leading to the capture of a killer who is going to kill again. Iknow that Linda would have done this if she had wanted to, but she seemedmore interested in the paranormal in and of itself.
I really wanted to like this novel and had great hopes. I wanted (perhapsunfairly) to read a novel that deals openly with my Mormon culture. But as Ialready mentioned, there isn't very much Momon about the book (or it playedonly a minor role) and I don't think Linda meant to write a Mormon book.Casting my hopes for a Mormon novel aside, I was ready for a goodmystery/psycological horror. But what I got was more of an exercise inparanormal experience. I know that Linda Sillitoe has excelled ininvestigative style writing. But I don't feel that excellence carried overinto Secrets Keep.
© 1996 Tory Anderson