Review: Barbara Copperthwaite – Her Last Secret

I’m an admirer of Barbara Copperthwaite’s books. She effectively combines a strong sense of place with intriguing plots and her latest book, Her Last Secret, continues this tradition.  Chief Inspector Paul Ogundele is called to a house on Christmas Day after reports of gunfire and is shocked by a discovery. The narrative then tells the story of events leading up this and the secrets which threaten to overwhelm the family.

Copperthwaite effectively builds up a portrait of an outwardly ordinary family, parents Ben and Dominique and their daughters, Ruby and Mouse. The author explores one of my favourite themes: families and the secrets that they carry around with them. Mouse is the most intriguing of the characters. Bookish and introverted, the family appear at times unaware of her presence. Gradually the true nature of the individual characters are revealed and most, while unsympathetic, are entirely believable.

The dual timeline, the first beginning on the 17th December, interspersed with what the police discover on Christmas Day works extremely well and I found myself turning the pages to discover what caused the carnage. As much a character study as psychological thriller, this is the author’s best book yet and will appeal to fans of Ruth Rendell who miss her unique take on the weirdness within families.

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