‘I know your secret’ is a police procedural based in Carlisle and the borders, England. As such it immediately captures my attention as this is where I live, and Cumbria rarely gets much notice at the best of times. Another attraction point is the strength of Graham’s debut novel, ‘Snatched from home,’ the timeline of which is immediately prior to this story.
I picked up my copy at a local book-signing event laid on by Graham and his comrade in arms, Matt Hilton. As soon as I got it home I’d opened it and begun to get sucked in to the story. The gruesome opener is the murder of a local catholic priest where the killer nails the unfortunate man of the cloth to a church floor with a nail-gun. The drama doesn’t stop there as Smith weaves in a number of sub-plots, most notably the serial blackmail of unfortunates picked on by a mysterious hacker. Said cyber-criminal somehow knows the guilty secrets of his victims and is exploiting them to the full. Add to this the harrowing ordeal of Smith’s previous protagonist, Harry Evans having to sit through the court case of his wife’s rapist and you have all the ingredients for a fast-paced novel. The aforementioned court case includes authentic courtroom scenes filled with suspenseful moments made all the more realistic due to Smith’s meticulous research.
For me, the greatest strength of this novel is the writing and characterisation. In lesser hands this would be an entertaining enough crime novel but would lack the sparkle and richness of Smith’s narrative and descriptions. Take this line for example, ‘Her red hair hadn’t come from any bottle, unless she’d had her skin bleached and freckled to complete the look. Her cheekbones were higher than a rock star’s weekend, and her figure was that of a runaway model.’ With thumbnail sketches like this, the author pulls us close in to the scene until we feel we’re walking the streets with DI Campbell (the other protagonist) and his team as he chases down leads and red herrings.
Don’t expect any artificial thrills in IKYS such as high speed car chases or long drawn out combat scenes. The drama is achieved more skilfully through interactions between the various cast members and the masterful build-up of suspense. A bonus for me was having a couple of scenes occur that are more than familiar to me. A student dive on Chatsworth Square (where my brother happens to live), the corridors of Carlisle College (where my daughter studied) and the grounds of Naworth Castle, just a stone’s throw away from the home where I was brought up.
Summing up then, this is a gripping story that will please all types of readers, particularly lovers of detective/crime novels and by the time you’ve finished you’ll want to buy Graham Smith’s back catalogue of stories from Caffeine Press.
Links for obtaining Graham’s book are below.