It’s a real pleasure today to be sharing my review of The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas, published as an e-book by HQ Digital on 1st March, with the paperback to follow on 16th May. This is the second book featuring the quite wonderful Cat Carlisle, and I’ve been really looking forward to it since so enjoying the first, The Silent Woman (just 99p for kindle at the moment): you’ll find my review here, and you might also like to catch up with Terry’s earlier guest post.
My advance reading copy was provided by the publishers (thank you!) via netgalley, but I’ll admit that I’ve messed up a little – there’s a blog tour currently underway organised by Rachel’s Random Resources (I’ll share the banner below), but I didn’t sign up because of some confusion over another tour that doesn’t seem to have materialised. My apologies everyone (especially Rachel), but it’s still lovely to be one of many voices currently singing the praises of this rather special book…
Will she find the truth?
After a sudden unexplained disappearance, Thomas Charles comes back into Cat Carlisle’s life with the suggestion she leave London – and the threat of bombs – to move to back her childhood village in Cumberland.
Back in her hometown Cat discovers her childhood friend, Beth Hargreaves, is suspected of murder. As Cat tries to prove Beth’s innocence, she discovers a scheme of deception that affects the whole village. Can she uncover the family truths behind the murder and expose the enemy hiding in plain sight?
No longer just the threat of war – it’s now a reality, and London’s a dangerous place to be. We’re still in the world of espionage and dirty deeds though, and although Thomas might be rather keener on pursuing his historical and literary endeavours, as well as rebuilding his relationship with Cat, it’s a tangled web that won’t let him go. But that world is really a backdrop and catalyst, sometimes making its presence felt, for a quite different story.
The setting this time is rural Cumbria and the village of Rivenby, barely impacted by war except by the influx of evacuees, a safe retreat for Cat and her ward Annie, and a return to the familiar surroundings of her childhood. But there’s been an unexplained death, and sinister goings-on continue and multiply – and, Cat being Cat, she just can’t stop herself becoming involved.
In some ways, this is a quite different book from the first, maybe more of a “cosy” mystery (and why does it always sound rather rude to describe a book in that way?). If I could make a TV comparison, I thought it was a perfect cross between the best of Midsomer Murders crossed with Foyle’s War, and that’s not a bad pedigree. In other ways, it isn’t different – it’s full of wonderfully drawn characters (undoubtedly one of the author’s many strengths), and the whole story is every bit as gripping, filled with unexpected twists and turns that frequently catch you by surprise as it races to its dramatic climax.
Cat isn’t really the focus for this story, although her sleuthing constantly moves the story forward and she’s the catalyst for many of its more dramatic moments. At its centre is Carmona Broadbent, with her controlling and overbearing mother and doormat father, who develops a totally unsuitable attraction for the rather sleazy Phillip Billings, and with far-reaching consequences.
But this is a story with a large cast of characters, many of whom take their turn to behave badly or to begin a course of action that’s unlikely to end well. There’s real drama, a few life-threatening moments, unexpected relationships, shocks and surprises galore – and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, racing through it in a single sitting.
Do you need to have read the earlier book to enjoy this one? I’d say no (although I’d really recommend it on its own merits) – this really is a self-contained story. The author does an excellent job of touching lightly on the events of the past – in fact, I think others could learn from the way she handles it – and that outline is more than sufficient.
So have we seen the last of Cat Carlisle? Oh, I do hope not! I rarely read a series, but this is one I’m thoroughly enjoying…
And here are the details of the ongoing blog tour…
About the author
Terry Lynn Thomas grew up the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches, windy dunes, and gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.