No spoilers. I promise. Which means I won't go into much plot detail. In 1961, when Laurel Nicolson was sixteen, she witnessed a shocking event. She and her mother were the only ones who knew the truth, and they never spoke of it. Fast-forward to 2011. Laurel is a famous actress in her sixties, and her mother Dorothy is dying. Before her mother dies, Laurel wants to uncover the roots of that long-ago shocking event. Her investigation takes her back to the London of 1941, when her mother was young and impulsive and full of secret plans. The story alternates between 2011 and 1941, following Laurel's discoveries about the mother she thought she knew. Kate Morton has a wild imagination and the heart of a romantic. She creates intricately plotted stories full of tragedy and betrayal and lost loves and second chances. Her characters are colorful, and they'll always trip you up as you stumble over their secrets. I wouldn't say Morton's novels are formulaic, but they do all follow a similar pattern. Present-day characters run across a clue or two that makes them suddenly keen to delve into their family history, about which they were heretofore strangely incurious. Things always fall into place for these characters as they trek into the past. Photographs are found with cryptic inscriptions on the back. Old letters and postcards drop from the pages of forgotten books. There is always at least one person from the old days who is still alive and can point the seeker in the right direction. And...mirabile dictu...someone kept a journal! That journal always reads more like a novel, and happens to contain all the info that couldn't have been obtained elsewhere. Am I making fun of Kate Morton? Well, maybe, but only a little. She's a clever lady who provides many happy hours of escape reading for her fans. You have to go into it knowing it's going to be farfetched, and just enjoy the whole crazy convoluted confection. So why only three stars for THE SECRET KEEPER? #1)Morton develops her characters by going off on tangents. Long tangents, sometimes taking up an entire chapter. When she gets back on track, you've lost the thread of the plot. #2)Lots of unnecessary scenes, apparently meant for atmosphere, but to me they're just clutter. I fear Morton is going to lose some impatient readers, because you have to get all the way to the halfway mark of THE SECRET KEEPER before it gains any momentum. And even then it drags quite a bit in some spots. #3)Morton places too much emphasis on the romantic aspects of her stories. I prefer "the least you need to know" about the mushy stuff, and get on with the mystery. I had the same problem with THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON.Here's my record so far with Kate Morton's books: The Forgotten Garden - 5 starsThe House at Riverton - 3.5 starsThe Distant Hours - 1 starIf your record looks better than that, you're going to love this one, too.