Suffering from the trauma of a stillborn baby and the end of her relationship with her boyfriend, Sarah agrees to accompany her sister and brother-in-law to Sicily for a holiday. Here she meets Alexander and his six-year-old son, Jamie, who are having problems of their own: Alexander’s wife, Genevieve, has left him and disappeared without trace. When Alex offers Sarah a job as housekeeper at his home in England, she agrees. Despite her family’s concerns, Sarah thinks it’s the right decision: she’s attracted to Alex, adores his little boy, and is desperate to make a fresh start and move on with her life.
But after joining Alex and Jamie at Avalon, their home in the village of Burrington Stoke in Somerset, Sarah begins to wonder exactly what happened to Genevieve. The missing woman’s family are convinced Alex knows more about the disappearance than he’s admitting to, but Sarah knows that can’t be true…or can it?
The Secrets Between Us was my final choice for the Transworld Book Group. Louise Douglas is not an author I’ve ever read before, so I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I was immediately drawn to it when I saw that it had been compared to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite books. And there are definitely some similarities. Genevieve, like Rebecca, is described as beautiful, popular, talented and loved by everyone who knew her – and although she’s not there physically, she’s still a very strong presence and always at the heart of the story. The two books also share a gothic atmosphere and a sense of uneasiness and foreboding.
But this is also an excellent book in its own right. The author expertly keeps us guessing right to the end by adding some unexpected plot twists and ensuring that we can never be quite certain whether Alexander can be trusted or not. It’s also possible that Sarah, as the narrator, may not always be completely reliable. Some very strange and spooky things happen at Avalon and we are made to wonder whether they have supernatural causes or whether Sarah’s emotional state is making her see things that aren’t really there.
I did find it hard to believe that Sarah would agree to move in with a man she’d only met on a couple of brief occasions in Sicily, but at least this meant we were thrown into the action almost immediately, with only a short build-up. And Sarah is a narrator who is easy to like and to have sympathy for. I could really feel her fear and confusion as more and more facts about Genevieve were revealed, and her sense of growing isolation as the people of Burrington Stoke turned against her, believing that she and Alexander were trying to cover up the truth about Genevieve’s disappearance.
The Secrets Between Us is an excellent psychological thriller, with just the right amount of tension and suspense. Although Louise Douglas’ previous novels sound very different to this one, I really liked her writing and would be happy to try her other books at some point too.
I received a copy of this book from Transworld for review.