I absolutely loved Graham Norton's last book, Holding, and couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, perhaps another cosy-ish crime story, but A Keeper is much darker and quite sad in places.
Elizabeth Keane has returned to her childhood home in Ireland after her mother's death, intending to close up and sell the house. Instead, she finds a cache of letters hidden in her mother's wardrobe, making mention of the father Elizabeth never knew. That, combined with another unexpected inheritance, makes Elizabeth determined to investigate her mother's past.
"She imagined her family tree as a couple of bare branches with an ancient vulture perched on one of them."
As always, the character studies and dialogue are brilliant. Despite the sadness of the tale (towards the end), there are some funny one-liners too. Instead of multiple viewpoints, like Holding, A Keeper is mostly told from just two - Elizabeth in the present day and Patricia (her mother) in the 1970s. Because I was thoroughly enjoying the story, it didn't dawn on me until about two-thirds of the way through that this is a story about mothers and their relationship with their children. Clever title too!
The dual timeline, the strong female characters and the challenges they face would appeal to fans of authors such as Eve Chase and Lulu Taylor. I read a lot of books, so I kind of knew where the story was heading, but there were some good twists that took me completely by surprise. (So that will teach me to be smug!) 1970s rural Ireland is very well realised and, as I've said, the characters are brilliant and I loved them, flaws and all.
A five-star read, thoroughly recommended!
Thank you to Graham Norton and Coronet (Hodder and Stoughton) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.
Holding by Graham Norton