Book name: Twelve Secrets
Author: Robert Gold
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Publication Date: 2022
Star Rating: 4/5
For members of a small, tight-knit community a murder has tragic and far-reaching consequences.
This is the central theme of Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold.
Ben Harper’s childhood was rocked by the murder of his brother Nick and the subsequent (apparent) suicide of his mother.
Elizabeth Woakes knows exactly how Ben feels. Her son Simon was murdered along with Nick. Her husband then suffered a nervous breakdown.
The most shocking element of the crime was that the murderers were two teenage girls, schoolfriends of Nick and Simon.
The girls were sentenced to time in a Young Offenders’ Institute and then given new identities on their release.
Ever since then, the residents of Haddley, just outside London, have been wondering where these women are.
Years later, speculation is still rife in Haddley as to who incited and groomed them to commit the double murder in the first place.
The murder of a young woman in Leeds triggers a visit from the police.
Ben and Elizabeth are told that she was in fact one of the girls who murdered Nick and Simon.
Ben, a journalist, investigates and begins to discover disturbing secrets in his small-town community.
He starts to believe his mother may have been murdered and that it could have been linked to her communications with one of the murderers.
Worse, he discovers that one of the girls had become pregnant around the time of the murders.
Twelve Secrets was a fascinating portrait of the effects on individuals and their whole community of two murders. The consequences ripple down the decades and no one is ever truly free of it.
Told from the perspective of Ben (first person) and many of his longest-standing friends and neighbours (third person), Twelve Secrets really captured that the hell of something like this is really experienced by an entire community.
The story is told almost entirely from the perspective of lay people, with few scenes involving a police officer as a point-of-view character. In fact, the police investigation into the murder of the young woman was never central to the story. Rather, its effects were explored via the residents of Haddley, in particular Ben and those closest to him.
I loved this story. It was no police procedural, but that was a solid decision from Robert Gold. The story I wanted to hear was Ben’s and that of his friends: the people who suffered most even now from a devastating pair of murders.
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