Monday 16 October 2017

Twists, turns and a tale of horror as a mysterious past is revealed

fiction The Secret Wife Linda Kavanagh Poolbeg, €14.99, tpbk

Ann Dunne

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350

Over the past eight years, Linda Kavanagh has been storming the women's fiction genre with her best-selling psychological thrillers. A journalist with The Irish Press and later with the RTé Guide, she only turned to writing fiction in 2005 and her first novel, Love Hurts, was a page-turner with the past coming back to haunt the protagonists.

Kavanagh has continued this format throughout her six subsequent novels. In titles such as Love Child, Hush Hush, Time After Time, Never Say Goodbye and Still Waters, a festering past accompanies philandering husbands, dark secrets, vengeance and a sense of foreboding, along with several heart-stopping, "never saw that coming" twists.

Much the same as Kavanagh's previous novels, The Secret Wife lulls the reader into a false sense of security with a seemingly innocent chicklit-style opening storyline but soon descends into a much darker and ominous tale of horror.

Laura Thornton, an orphan heiress, is caught up in the excitement of preparing for her wedding to the handsome Jeff.

It is obvious to everyone except the otherwise intelligent college lecturer Laura that the marriage is not going to work. Her best friend, Kerry, tries to warn her and is soon proved right when the cruel and possessive Jeff becomes violent.

Laura's life turns into a living hell after she leaves Jeff. He begins to stalk her and the police won't believe her story. Even when she moves to another town, his menacing presence seems to be everywhere and, to cap it, friends start acting strangely.

The narrative alternates between present and past, revealing the circumstances of Laura's and Kerry's births and how they became inseparable friends.

Born a few months apart, Kerry and Laura grew up as neighbours and best pals.

While Kerry was relatively poor, Laura got the silver spoon though not the luck -- she was orphaned when her parents and brother perished in a car crash, for which Laura has always felt responsible.

Since the girls are already like sisters, Laura goes to live with Kerry and her widowed mother, who has her own mysterious past -- one that is intertwined with Laura's family and is now catching up on both Laura and Kerry in a most terrifying manner.

It seems the author's particular brand of revenge is definitely best served very cold. As the past is gradually revealed, the present starts to make sense, though not without a couple of red herrings and the trademark twist or two.

Laura's life is in grave danger and Kavanagh skilfully builds the suspense to a crescendo as the story races towards an ending that will keep fans very satisfied.

ANN DUNNE

Irish Independent

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