Katharine Johnson’s The Secret is set in Santa Zita, Italy. Both a historical novel and thriller, it moves rather seamlessly between the past, the Second World War, and present, when the village is undergoing regeneration. As part of the latter, journalist Carlo returns to his birthplace to open a restaurant with wife Cass. His mother, Irena, is losing her memory and is recording stories from the past for Carlo, most of which involve her best friend, Martina. It becomes clear quite quickly that his mother and the villagers hold many secrets relating not just to the war, but also to the discovery of a baby a generation earlier. But is it better to let sleeping dogs lie?

Told from multiple perspectives, the plot unfolds fluidly. Johnson weaves her story well, setting the scene and evoking the locale beautifully. We get a real sense of the village in both modern times and in Mussolini’s Italy – and of the anxieties and challenges that the characters have to face, particularly in times of conflict. Extremely readable, The Secret is a well-executed novel and although a follow-up to the The Silence, it can be treated as a standalone. A perfect holiday read.


The Secret | Katharine Johnson | June 2018 | paperback | Crooked Cat Books |

The second book in the Villa Leonida series, but can be read as a standalone


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources to whom we extend our thanks. It is published slightly later than intended due to the murder of my MacBookPro and subsequent loss of computer and data. Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy of the book and cover image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

Also of interest: ‘A tale of “Jews and shoes” in modern China, Spencer Wise’s debut novel’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘The Woolgrower’s companion‘; ‘The stark beauty of William Shaw’s Salt Lane‘; ‘Johana Gustawsson’s Keeper –indie publisher, Orenda, does it again‘; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’.