Transworld Books 21st Feb 2019
Secretary: (a) person entrusted with a secret
Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, or who commands the most respect?
Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure who silently bears witness to shared information and whispered secrets. Someone who quietly, maybe even unwittingly, gathers knowledge of the people she’s there to assist.
And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to their limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room…
The final book from the terrific Transworld Crime Fiction Showcase which I talked about here. I was intrigued by the premise of this book which is highly original, the notion of the all knowing Secretary and the power they wield, the all encompassing trust and the absolute faith in their loyalty.
This is a slow burner of a novel, a character study of the Secretary; Christine in relation to Mina her scrupulous employer and Chief Executive of Appleton’s Supermarket chains, an ethical company built on their ethos of fair trade.
While I enjoyed this book, it was much slower paced than I anticipated and a significant proportion of the novel was Christine looking back on her time as Mina’s Secretary. While the reader was aware that something had happened the location of Christine and the circumstances of the end of her employment with Mina remained a mystery until the final stages of the book. It was at this point the pace picked up and the plot took a more sinister turn, culminating in the climax of the novel, which wasn’t quite what I expected, but was clever and a fitting end to the story.
The power of this book is it’s take on the role of the Secretary / PA, a familiar relationship which most will have encountered and which we witness in celebrity partnerships. That person who makes themselves available, for a salary to someone 24/7, the commitment is high, the benefits generous and the cost is without limits. The story is not new but the telling in this way most definitely is. Don’t expect a fast paced thriller, laden with tension, that’s not what this book is but rather a most satisfying read, thought provoking and authentic in the building of the relationship and the character of the Secretary with a just ending that closes the book with a bang.
In summary I have read the three books from the Transworld Crime Fiction Showcase and while different I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. You can see my other reviews here – The Suspect by Fiona Barton, The Rumour by Lesley Kara.