Whether or not she writes as Susanna Kearsley or Emma Cole, this Canadian author recounts a well-crafted tale that combines suspense and romance in a true raconteur's style that out of all the many contenders vying for the best approximation to a Mary Stewart for the 21st century, she clearly has positioned herself in the number one slot. Cole/Kearsley accomplishes this minor miracle not just by cloning Stewart's style--she has Stewart's same gift for description and the ability to make place an actual character that impacts her plot--but by updating Stewart's beloved formula that those of us who awaited each and every Stewart offering with bated breath--and were never disappointed--came to depend upon when it came to wanting suspense literature interjected with intelligence and subtle not bodice-ripping romance.
Fashioned from the same mold as Stewart's heroines, Kearsley/Cole's capable yet likeable modern day women cope with whatever life throws at them in a positive, no-nonsense albeit feminine way. In `Every Secret Thing," Cole utilizes a next generation of Stewart's familiar first person voice. Like Stewart's post WWII independent woman, Cole's character is pleased with herself and her accomplishments. However, in terms of personal strength with regard to self-identity, Kearsley/Cole's women bask in a newly found financial stability greater than that of the waitresses, secretaries, teachers and clerks of Stewart's day.
Here, protagonist, Kate Murray, is a journalist. That she has a relatively good life is self-evident; her inbred optimism is reflected in how she handles herself. However, like the typical Stewart heroine, she stumbles upon a sensitive situation of which she cannot help but become involved. In this case, like Stewart's first incomparable thriller, Madam, Will You Talk? the plotline involves a murder from the past that impacts people adversely in the present. As with Stewart, the ethical principle rules supreme.
In "Every Secret Thing" Kearsley/Cole almost reverses the Stewart formula. Whereas Stewart's work, all now period pieces that are indicative of a brave new world shining with hope and moving forward after the onslaught of the Second World War, this novel revolves around looking backwards at what we of today take for granted. On a larger level, it is a tribute to that `greatest generation's' ability to do what they had to do for the greater good with much pluckiness, personal sacrifice and little, if no, bemoaning of what could have, should have, and would have been. Kearsley/Cole nuances these small acts of unselfishness with the before and after insights of her younger protagonist - a young woman less than 30 years of age who at first has little tolerance for the elderly but grows to understand that people like her seemingly benign grandmother enabled her to have the wherewithal to explore her options while presenting her with the societal climate in which to live out her ambitions.
While the plotline lacks the clockwork smoothness of some of Kearsley/Cole's other works, it nevertheless keeps the reader wanting to turn the page. The modern story eclipses in the face of the older narrative--one involving espionage and murder in the exciting and sometimes exotic venues of New York, Lisbon, London and Washington DC. The heroine fails to enjoy any real romantic entanglements of her own, although the author does suggest one and as "Every Secret Thing" begins a series starring this protagonist there obviously will be more involvements or a continuation of the one started to come. Although the real beauty revealed in this story resides only in the memories of the older generation, the evocative yearning emoted by the two key characters elevates the reader to that special place of dreams and sentiment that once experienced cannot be duplicated. Kearsley/Cole manages this with a master's stroke and we want more. The love she depicts sparkles with that mélange of the bittersweet and precious. Quite simply she does a marvelous job and makes "Every Little Thing" one not to be missed by fans of this literary genre.
Bottom line? As the first installment of Emma Cole/Susanna Kearsley's Kate Murray series, "Every Secret Thing" offers the classic romantic suspense reader just what they desire in terms of that winning formula of likeable main character, desperate situation and exotic locale as instituted by master of the game, Mary Stewart. While Kearsley's usual tale involves a touch of the supernatural, Cole's story delves into the past and involves a murder, all of which are firmly banked in solid if not ruthless reality. Deduct a star for a chronological hodgepodge of a plotline and add one for the intensely sweet secondary story of real love in overwhelmingly perilous times. Recommended highly to all those who love intelligent romantic suspense and are not offended by sometimes incongruous happenstance and poetry-spewing characters.
Diana Faillace Von Behren