Review: 'The Secret Son' by Jennifer Burke
Debut novelist's emotionally charged family tale has twists aplenty
FOR the past couple of years, Poolbeg Press and TV3 have given aspiring writers the chance of a lifetime. The publishers teamed up with TV3's The Morning Show to run the Write A Best Seller competition, which gives the winner an opportunity to see their novel in print.
In 2011, Howth mother-of-two Siobhan McKenna saw her life change when she won the competition. Her winning novel, The Lingerie Designer, became a bestseller and went on to be shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in the Best Newcomer category.
This year's winner is Jennifer Burke. As a solicitor, she saw many family disputes over dead relatives' wills, which gave her the idea of a will that did not just involve the division of monies but went a step further to reveal a dark secret.
When Sean Murtagh gets the shocking news of his father's sudden death, he returns from New York to Wicklow for the funeral. As they grapple with the tragedy, there is further trauma when his father's will disinherits his wife and family and leaves everything to an unknown son, Andrew Shaw, the result of a secret one-night stand.
It is as much a shock to Andrew who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. And despite his unwillingness, his mother insists on moving their family from Kerry to Wicklow to fight for his inheritance.
The Murtaghs are equally set on keeping their considerable fortune. While the two mothers are at loggerheads, there are tentative overtures between the different siblings and a Capulets and Montagues situation arises when Sean falls for Andrew's sister.
The hurt and animosity on both sides only make Andrew's plight worse. With time running out for him, the emotionally charged plot reveals more secrets that threaten to destroy both families.
With its many twists and turns, this unusual and absorbing book takes the reader on a touching journey to an unpredictable ending, making it likely that Jennifer Burke will follow the success of the previous winner and have a bestseller on her hands.
The Secret Sun