Apologies for being a little late to the party: The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm was published for kindle back in October 2018 by Zaffre, and I just couldn’t fit in the reading, however much I really wanted to. But I’m delighted to have the perfect second chance – the paperback is published tomorrow (7th February), and I suspect it’s going to fly off the shelves. I had a lovely introduction to this highly original thriller – an evening at Jane Lythell’s book launch at the British Film Institute, where I had the real pleasure of spending time in Kate’s company, sharing her excitement about the book’s forthcoming publication and being really intrigued by the idea behind it. Kate, I’m sorry it took me so long to get round to the reading…
In her eyes, no one is innocent…
Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice. But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career – a case of twisted family betrayal – she realises that her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.
As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind that case, something happens that threatens not only her career, but even her sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her.
But the truth turns out to be even more terrifying…
I’m not a regular reader of thrillers: if I’m honest, it’s because I find them exceptionally difficult to review without beginning to tell the story. But I was certainly right to be excited about the premise of this book: and the fact that it was so character-driven gave it a compelling edge that I couldn’t resist, reading it in a single sitting.
The book’s opening is just enough to draw you in, a child’s traumatic memory revisited and expanded as the story progresses, the action then moving to twenty years later as Georgia captures images as the court artist at the rape trial of a prominent footballer. The courtroom scenes are vividly created – and the creation of Georgia’s images is fascinatingly described, where her skill in capturing postures and expressions has the potential to influence opinions and outcomes. But has she sometimes got it wrong? Perhaps, in an early case, her interventions meant that justice wasn’t done… and that possible wrong is something that Georgia wants to put right, whatever the personal consequences.
But there’s a great deal more to this book though than the simple pursuit of delayed justice. Georgia is a satisfyingly complex character, damaged by her childhood experiences, survivor guilt mixed with an inability to trust – and, when the hallucinations begin, well-founded and understandable doubts about her own sanity. I’m not always a fan of the big twist, but the one in this book is both original and unusual: the direction the story then takes was both completely unexpected, and very well handled.
But with Georgia’s personal trauma and current issues always in the foreground, the narrative drive of the “cold case” is never allowed to flag, and this is clever and confident writing. There’s a substantial cast of characters – I particularly liked ex-partner Oli, and couldn’t help being fascinated by Jim – and as Georgia uncovers the truth they all play their part as the book approaches its explosive climax. But the book’s focus – and the eyes through which everything is seen and interpreted – is always Georgia, and it’s an approach that works quite superbly.
This was an accomplished psychological thriller with some highly original touches that I thought really distinguished it from the pack: I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to more from the author.
About the author
Kate Helm was born in Lancashire, and worked as a journalist covering courts and crime, before becoming a BBC reporter and producer in news and current affairs. She also wrote documentary and drama scripts, including the BBC1 programme: Angel of Death: The Story of Beverly Allitt. Kate Helm is a pseudonym for author Kate Harrison whose non-fiction and novels have been sold in 20 territories and sold over 800,000 copies. Kate lives in Brighton, this is her first book under the name Kate Helm and her debut adult crime novel.