Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Paul Harris
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: He ran his tongue over his swollen gums and tasted blood.
It’s been four years since British journalist Danny Kellerman covered the turmoil in Sierra Leone, and he never intends to return. Then he receives a letter from Maria, an ex-lover in Sierra Leone, telling him that she’s in trouble and needs his help. Before he has a chance to decide what to do, he learns that Maria has been killed. The government is saying it was a simple roadside robbery gone wrong, but Maria’s letter proves to Danny that there’s more to it. He convinces his editor that there’s a story there and heads back, leaving behind a disgruntled girlfriend, and an estranged father.
While I have absolutely no desire to travel to the world’s most dangerous places, I enjoy reading about war correspondents and journalists who are willing to brave terrifying conditions to expose genocide and corruption, terror and poverty. Harris has created a complex character in Danny Kellerman – a journalist who is defined by his time in Sierra Leone, despite his attempts to return to “normal” life in London. Danny could never forget Maria, the aid worker he met during his first stint as a war correspondent, and the way she opened the truth of the country to him – even though she kept her own secrets hidden.
The novel switches back and forth between 2000 and 2004, and Harris deftly weaves details about the politics of the country into the story without detracting from an action-filled plot. He shows how corruption seeps into the very roots of the government, how the men who were once considered butchers by the rest of the world are now in positions of power in the government. He deals with the plight of the boy soldiers, a reality not just in Sierra Leone, but in many African countries.
Harris mixes the stark reality of the political situation with the story of Danny’s determination to find out what happened to Maria, to discover the truth of who she had been. Danny’s journey is not simply geographical – he discovers how far he is willing to go to uncover the details of Maria’s death, and what he will do to give her the justice she deserves.
The Secret Keeper was an engrossing read – Harris is an author to watch.