Give My Secrets Back

Reviewed by Andy Smart

In Give My Secrets Back Denver cop Alison Kaine becomes drawn into the classic dilemma: was it murder or was it suicide? Tamsin McArthur, author of the best-selling series of Blaze Badgirl mystery novels is found dead in her bathtub under circumstances which suggest a bizarre accident. However the more Alison probes the more like murder it begins to seem. There is only a small pool of suspects from which to select the killer, but the guilty party is hard to guess till the dénouement when all lies are revealed.

This is in many ways a novel about idealism in one's past catching up with one in the present. If you are still young and idealistic you will find this a very true book in 20 years so hang on to it! If you remember the late 1970s then this book will I think bring back fond memories. The majority of the characters lived through the years when a political stance was everything and affected everything you did (do you remember buying that disgusting instant coffee the purchase of which would fund the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in their fight to preserver democracy against the Contras)? However most of them have changed and grown older, more cynical and less political. Tam had been a ponytail and Birkenstocks lesbian then and has metamorphosed into the ultimate leathergirl, Alison took peyote and is now a police officer, etc. Alison's best childhood friend Michelle hasn't changed a bit and heartily disapproves of her relationship with quilt artist and professional bondage mistress Stacy.

The importance of the past is however that, while you may leave it behind and change, the things you did can still come back to affect your life at any moment. The events surrounding Tamsin's death are firmly rooted in the past, the actions that she and her sister take propel them into a tragedy which results in one death, and almost in a second. All is made clear in the end however, and there is a resolution from which some good comes, but too late to save either Tamsin's life or her relationship with her family.

On a lighter side, Stacy and Alison are still together and having fun, if decidedly non-vanilla, sex. Michelle and her partner Janka are trying to have a baby, including a conception ceremony which pushes Alison's ability to participate in ritual to the limit. Liz participates in an 'act out your fantasy on stage' event, aided by Stacy of course. There is also a small fire in Alison's apartment under circumstances which really make you feel for her (embarrassment doesn't come close). Kate Allen manages the transitions from the serious main narrative to these comic interludes very skilfully and you never feel the jump in mood jars. I enjoyed it and I hope you do to!

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