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by Renée Knight
Harper, February 2019
304 pages
ISBN: 0062362356

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The secretary of the title, Christine Butcher, has spent twenty years working with London-based grocery tycoon Mina Appleton. As her personal secretary, she has been privy to Mina's professional and personal life. She carries out her duties with the utmost care and doesn't miss a single detail. Everything is going perfectly for Mina, and it's because of Christine, who is proud of the level of trust placed in her, and there is nothing she would do to lose that.

Christine is quiet, invisible, and sees everything that goes on within the company. She keeps track of the dates, the meetings, the events, and the finances. At her employer's discretion, she knows how to rearrange those dates, delete those meetings, and no one is none the wiser. She sees everything that Mina has done and will do. There are secrets that keep Mina floating, and Christine with her. When those secrets threaten to come out, it will take Christine everything she has to keep from floundering.

THE SECRETARY is as moving as it is devastating. The story is told like a flashback with input from the present Christine who slowly reveals clues about what is happening to her now. The secretary has been keeping a secret and this is her chance to finally tell it, and her real intentions will no-doubt shock you.

The first-person narrative pulled me in quickly and there was so much to be learned directly through Christine's thoughts. The first person also adds the asset of an unreliable narrator. While the present Christine is telling us what she thought in the past, there are many times where she speaks as if she is still there.

One of Christine's most notable traits is her attention to detail, so it comes as no surprise that she is a very detailed character. We are introduced to every inch of her life as Mina Appleton's secretary. At first, there are small, obvious nods to something important. Then there are passing mentions of forgettable moments that come back to haunt both the reader and Christine. Even when looking for them, it's astounding how striking the impact of those forgettable moments are.

Mina Appleton, the second most prominent character, is an enigmatic character. Left with only Christine's perspective, there is only so much we can understand about her. But Christine puts so much work into being the perfect secretary that it becomes hard to distinguish whether Mina is truly the mastermind the press makes her out to be or if she is simply an overworked businesswoman trying to do the best for her company.

THE SECRETARY is best described as slow burn. To understand Christine, you must know her whole story, and she is prepared to tell it all. While the pace is slow, the suspense is intense and constantly mounts. These elements combine in a thriller that will leave you breathless.

§ Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, January 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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