Nancy (Hobe Sound FL)
A very good story overall
The basic story within the covers of The Secret Keeper is quite good, dealing with the aftermath and the effects of war in Sierra Leone. The civil war there and its casualties (in all senses of the word) make for interesting reading. The twist in the story was quite unexpected, and made for a bit of an "aha" at the end. However, the characters in this book seemed a bit flat, one-dimensional and were people I really cared nothing about.
The author is a journalist who spent a lot of time in Africa and actually covered the conflict there. He might consider writing a nonfictional account of his experiences -- they would probably come off as being more realistic.
I would probably only recommend it to people who want to know more about the politics and conflict in Sierra Leone. The story he's trying to tell is a good one and should be heard.
Velma (Jacksonville TX)
Kudos for this first novel by Paul Harris! From the first page I was drawn into Danny's world and its secrets. I never saw the conclusion coming (a novelty for me). Danny is a British reporter who travels to Sierra Leone to cover the revolutionary war there and falls in love with an aid worker at a children's facility. It's a love story, a mystery, a thriller, and a powerful commentary on our turbulent times and the people who survive those times. It is a good read...a VERY good read and I would recommend it highly to all. I will await the next book by Mr. Harris anxiously and hope that the arrival will be soon.
Betsey (Austin TX)
Educational but inconsistently executed
The best thing about this book is the information revealed about the politics and dire social circumstances in Sierra Leone during the civil war (and the post-war deceptions of its leaders). The story had potential, but the characters were one-dimensional, obvious. Also, too much prose was focused on the main protagonist's alcoholism and narcissism, and the tone of the narrative was a bit off. It didn't match the seriousness of the story.
The author is a journalist--it was apparent in the execution of the novel. The author seemed to digress into a journalistic delivery at intervals, especially when he was imparting the socio-political details.
There were some nice metaphors and imagery. It just didn't add up to a juicy tale. The climax was bathetic and too foreshadowed.
Laura (Atlanta GA)
The Secret Keeper
While I had a hard time putting this book down, I can't say that I liked it. The story line, which focuses on a reporter's efforts to investigate the murder of his former lover who is caught up in a civil war in Sierra Leone, is compelling, and its tensions are well developed. The characters, while not particularly likable, are quite human and appropriately motivated. However, the writing is too flabby and casual for this high tension story. Harris is particularly fond of the verb-less description posing as a sentence, and sometimes strings 6 or 7 together in a distracting way. The stylistic devise of switching between two time periods to tell the story is confusing at times. On several occasions, I had to flip back to the beginning of a chapter to determine whether I was in the 2000 or 2004 segment of the story. Tighter writing would have turned this book into a first-rate thriller.
Kristen (Baltimore MD)
Much to think about
It has taken me a while to process this book enough to write my review - which is actually a really good sign for this book. It provides a lot to think about and a compelling view of a part of the world and a story which receives very little attention in American media. The book was a vehicle for an important story, and that message outweighs prose that is occasionally awkward with overplayed similes. The characters are richer and complex, and the morality of the situation and its resolution is left to the reader. I highly recommend this book.
Cheryl (East Aurora NY)
Book club material
This book was a very enjoyable read on several levels. I knew nothing about Sierra Leone prior to "living" it through the book's characters. There was action, intrigue and a remarkable ending. Although the writing isn't as polished as an experienced authors, I will definitely read Paul Harris next book. A book club would have many topics for discussion: relationships, morality, life under tyrannical rule, treatment of children in other societies, etc.
Michelle (Cincinnati OH)
Fast Paced Thriller
The book had my attention from the first page and held my attention until the end. I must confess I read it over the span of 2 evenings.I wanted to know the ending. At times, some of the characters seemed a bit flat and predictable, but overall a great first novel.