I’m not usually a big reader of crime fiction.
During my younger days I enjoyed a good mystery wrapped up in an adventure series (thank you Trixie Belden and Enid Blyton) and I still love to delve into the psychological reasons why people do the things they do (Maigret fits the bill here). Cosy crime is my favourite though, especially if it’s dressed up as historical fiction (Maisie Dobbs, Rowland Sinclair & Phryne Fisher) but straight up and down crime is not usually my thing.
However my book club chose Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps as our latest read. I didn’t read the last book club book, so I felt compelled to do better this month.
Mr Books is a big fan of Robotham, but I approached reluctantly. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Agatha and Meghan, two women with very big secrets to keep, whose lives are on a serious collision course. The cover told me that baby snatching was going to be the crime at the centre of this story.
I thought I had it all worked out very early on. The first part was a ‘who-dunnit’ and I thought I was being inordinately clever by working out who and how so quickly. Except, suddenly, by the midpoint so did everyone else. Which is where the story became more of a ‘why-dunnit’, the tension ramped up several notches and I found myself reading until 1am to find out what happened next!
Although I didn’t really like any of the characters, I felt a lot of sympathy for the crim. She was one damaged woman, who made a lot of very poor and very dangerous choices. Robotham portrayed someone suffering from a severe personality disorder very realistically, albeit with the necessary literary exaggeration to make for an interesting tale.
Apparently the story of a baby being kidnapped from a hospital was based on a true event from the 1990’s (perhaps this one).
The Secrets She Keeps was a true page-turner, but for me, it’s also like eating fairy floss. Fun while it lasts, but not very satisfying in the long run.
I don’t mean to sound like a genre-snob; everyone reads for different reasons, and it’s truly wonderful that there’s a book genre to suit everyone’s needs. Mr Books loves this kind of stuff, along with political thrillers, Scandi noir, courtroom dramas and Underbelly style true crime. He reads it to relax at 5am when he can’t get back to sleep. He likes an engaging story, straight-forward, but clever writing, language that has been pared back to the bone and a well-constructed, well-paced plot with complex, believable characters. Robotham ticks all these boxes.
It’s just that in this short time I have on this planet to read all the book I want to read, I don’t want to spend too much time on books that aren’t really my thing. I read to find beauty, elegance and kindred spirits. I read to get lost in another’s world. I read for intellectual stimulation. I read to find answers to life’s big questions. I read for comfort and emotional connection.
Which makes me wonder why other people read?
Do you read like Mr Books, for the pure pleasure of escapism, like me, for the pleasure of connection and beauty, or do you have your very own reasons to read? Why do you read what you read?