The Only Secret Left to Keep, Katherine Hayton

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

The third book in the Ngaire Blakes series, THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP finds Blakes back in the police force (see my review of the second book: THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF for more), confronted by a very unusual case. The skeleton of a murder victim, found on a fireground, is eventually identified as a young African American, Sam Andie, who went missing around the time of the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand.

In the first two novels in this series a fair amount of time has gone into setting up the character of Ngaire Blakes. A cop who suffers from PTSD she's been assaulted, left the force, solved a case that she was being framed in, and is now back on the force, with a baffling historical crime to solve. In this outing the concentration has moved away from the character back story and more towards the investigation - a promising sign that this series is going to continue to evolve and improve from the potential heralded in the first two novels.

The plot here is nicely complicated by a series of factors - the Springbok Tours in New Zealand (and Australia) were fraught times, accompanied by many protests, strong opinions for and against, and the potential for a protest to have been a catalyst for murder is highly feasible. As is the possibility that a young African American man, transplated from the States to New Zealand by his family, could have met with racial prejudice and violence. Further complicated by the double homicide conviction handed down to Sam's girlfriend in the same week that he disappeared.

Because there has been so much concentration of Ngaire Blakes in the earlier books there is always the possibility that this is a series that would work better if you started at the very beginning, although you can step into it at THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP, accept that Blakes has some hefty baggage, and enjoy the novel as a police procedural / investigation in its own right. There's plenty to this plot, to Sam Andie himself, and to events around the time that he was murdered to keep a reader involved and occupied. Knowing a lot more about Blakes certainly means that you can see exactly how this series is progressing, and get a feeling for the way it keeps moving forward, adjusting the focus, and heading into very interesting territory indeed.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Detective Ngaire Blakes is back on the case when a skeletonized murder victim is discovered - a crime that took place during the Springbok Tours of 1981. A period that pitted father against son, town against city, and police against protestors.

When the victim is identified as Sam Andie, a young African American man transplanted from the States to NZ by his family, Ngaire must investigate whether racial motives were behind the death. In line with evidence from the forensic pathologist, a police baton could easily have been the murder weapon. Or was his death connected to Sam's girlfriend--a young woman convicted of a savage double homicide in the same week that Sam disappeared?

With files missing, memories hazy, and a strident false confession muddying the waters, Ngaire must sift through the detritus if she hopes to find the truth hiding deep beneath the lies.

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