Au­thor draws on rich ex­pe­ri­ences

CHB Mail - - News - Linda Thomp­son

Olivia and her fam­ily had been liv­ing the good life un­til ru­mours started that her fi­nancier hus­band Rich­mond is about to go bank­rupt.

De­spite cop­ing with breast cancer, a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy, a very beau­ti­ful but de­mand­ing teenage daugh­ter and miss­ing her son who is en­joy­ing a GAP year in

Asia, Olivia con­sid­ered her­self lucky. But her teenage lover — a gor­geous sail­ing in­struc­tor — has reen­tered her life. He is now a rich and suc­cess­ful part­ner in his fam­ily’s in­ter­na­tional busi­ness em­pire, and has been em­ployed to restart Rich­mond’s fail­ing Ma­rina project. She won­ders — why him? Why now?

Set in the at­trac­tive but sleepy sea­side town of Kester­ley, Susan Lewis uses the char­ac­ters to tell their ver­sions of the story un­fold­ing as Rich­mond strug­gles with his fi­nan­cial prob­lems. To com­pound his prob­lems, his for­mer girl­friend Ana Petrov re­turns claim­ing to be plan­ning to open a gallery in town. Olivia be­gins to doubt, old feel­ings resur­face and her world is thrown into con­fu­sion. Her teenage daugh­ter is dis­traught when her friends os­tracise her as the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions of Rich­mond’s ac­tions are felt in the com­mu­nity.

Susan Lewis is the best­selling au­thor of 40 nov­els and the mem­oirs of her child­hood in Glouces­ter­shire. Her fa­ther was a Welsh miner and poet and her mother died of cancer when she was 9. De­spite many ob­sta­cles she got a job with HTV at 18, moved to Lon­don at 22, be­com­ing a pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant — was told if she wanted to be­come a pro­ducer she needed to go away and write some­thing. Thirty books later and houses in the south of France then Hol­ly­wood be­fore mar­riage at 50, Susan has a great deal of life ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on for her char­ac­ters.

She uses her nov­els to ex­am­ine cur­rent so­ci­ety is­sues — in The Se­cret Keeper the im­pli­ca­tions for a fam­ily and the com­mu­nity of fraud, money laun­der­ing and poor fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions are vividly de­scribed. Ev­ery­one is af­fected in dif­fer­ent ways and the im­pact on each of the char­ac­ters is ex­plored. But as to be ex­pected, there is a happy end­ing. Emma Healey seems to have a fas­ci­na­tion with peo­ple go­ing miss­ing.

Her de­but novel was called

about an el­derly woman suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia and the dis­ap­pear­ance of her sis­ter El­iz­a­beth decades be­fore. It went down very well.

She re­vis­its that theme in this new novel.

Another dis­ap­pear­ance, this time of a 15-year-old girl who is gone for four days, who is found un­harmed in the coun­try. But Lana won’t talk about her ab­sence.

She’s al­ready trou­bled, suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion and cut­ting her­self. She only says she got lost.

Mum Jen is over anx­ious, hov­er­ing over her daugh­ter when they re­turn to Lon­don, lis­ten­ing to her phone con­ver­sa­tions and stalk­ing her on so­cial me­dia.

It’s an en­ter­tain­ing read. Plenty of ob­ser­va­tions on mod­ern life and re­la­tion­ships and the dan­gers of he­li­copter par­ent­ing.

Au­thor Susan Leiws.

The Se­cret Keeper By Susan Lewis, Pen­guin Ran­dom House, $37

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