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  • review by Paul Burston

The Secretary

If you enjoyed Disclaimer then you’re going to love The Secretary. While Renée Knight’s crime debut was a superior slice of domestic noir, her latest takes us into the world of working relationships and the power dynamics that can destroy careers - and lives.

Christine Butcher is the secretary of the title, a woman apparently quite meek and mild, but also a keen listener, someone who knows people’s secrets. She begins her story by quoting from “one of those old-fashioned detective novels” where it’s said that “the secretary is the most dangerous person in the room”. Already we’re aware that this is a woman to be reckoned with.

Soon we learn that Christine is recovering at The Laurels, looking back on past events and planning her future. But what brought her here? And what led to her name appearing in the newspaper?

Christine reveals her story in bite-sized chapters, taking us back to the day she first met Mina Appleton, daughter of Lord Appleton, who owns a supermarket chain. At first, Christine is very taken with Mina, but even as she tells us this she compares her first visit to her boss’s Notting Hill home to Jonathan Harker’s arrival at Castle Dracula. Clearly there’s more - or less - to this Mina than meets the eye.

Knight has created a truly complex and compelling character in Christine. Through her, she explores questions of friendship and power, loyalty and betrayal. The narrative voice grips from the outset and the interplay between the two women is fascinating and full of surprises. Take it from me - The Secretary is set to be one of the crime thrillers of 2019. I started reading it late at night and couldn’t put it down. Such a deliciously dark, hugely satisfying read.

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