I first read Robotham two years ago when I picked up Life and Death. I really liked his writing style (except for the present tense, although he at least does it decently) so I picked up the Joseph O’Laughlin series several months later. I really grew to love the characters in those books, and some of them were so intense I could barely put them down. Robotham generally does a decent job of keeping things high stakes without devolving into lots of violence and sex. While I haven’t found him to be a perfect writer, the quality has been consistent enough to keep me working through his back log (as well as looking forward to the new O’Laughlin book coming out this month!!).
The Secrets She Keeps is told in alternating viewpoints between two women, Meg and Agatha. Both women are pregnant and due around the same time. Agatha works in a shop and admires Meg from afar – she sees Meg as having the perfect life: a handsome husband, two other children, a lovely house. However, Meg’s narrative tells us that everything isn’t as amazing as it may appear. She and her husband are having some disagreements (what a shock) and Meg has made a big mistake that is eating away at her peace of mind.
Here’s the thing: this book doesn’t have a big twist. By about a quarter of the way in, I had a pretty solid idea of how the whole story was going to unwind – but I kept reading. Robotham created a situation where the tension was so heightened that I couldn’t look away. The train wreck kept getting closer and closer and I had to keep watching. I loved it.
I also really appreciated how Robotham was able to make Agatha such a sympathetic character despite the fact that everything she was doing was super wrong. He did a great job putting me in a position where while I couldn’t quite justify Agatha’s actions, I could still definitely understand them, and even feel empathy for her situation.
This book would have been an easy 4* read, but I had some very serious issues with the way Meg’s story wrapped up – not in a narrative way, which was quite satisfying, but morally. As usual in fiction these days, there is a very clear double standard presented, with the female in two scenarios getting a completely different conclusion than the males. This casual assumption that the woman is right about this just genuinely infuriates me. The non-spoiler is basically I’m tired of women acting like they can have an affair or have complete control over a child’s parentage. Husbands and fathers deserve the same rights as wives and mothers. They aren’t second-class citizens. Cheating on a husband is just as horrible as cheating on a wife. And a man absolutely deserves to know whether or not a child belongs to him. Refusing to allow him to find out the truth is WRONG. If you’re interested in a spoilery rant, see below.
I will also say that it felt like this book had a bit more sex than some of the others (although in fairness, so did Watching You – I have delicate sensibilities), but it wasn’t like it was every chapter or anything. It was actually kind of interesting to see how both women, at some level, used sex as a tool to get what they wanted (another double standard to rant about on another day haha).
At the end of the day, an easy 3.5* read. While not the twistiest thriller I’ve come across, it was still thoroughly engaging.
And while I probably would have gotten to this book someday anyway, as I’m slowly reading all of Robotham’s books, this one got an extra boost from a couple of reviews – Cleopatra and Stephanie both had interesting things to say about this one.
Spoiler rage below :-D