Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: Open Secret a mystery by Deryn Collier

Open Secret is Deryn Collier's latest novel featuring her protagonist, ex-solider Bern Fortin.

The mystery begins when a low-level criminal is murdered. Who he is and why he was killed are intriguing questions but I was equally captured by the sub-plots.

As always, I took notes as I read...

I found the sheer number of characters introduced in the beginning of the novel confusing. But the characters are intriguing.

Collier does a good job of amassing sympathy within her readers for Cindy--as well as making me curious as to how this character fits into the story. She's not mentioned in the blurb at the back of the book...

After the abrupt end of his military career Bern has settled into an uneasy peace in his new life in Kootenay Landing--a peace he knows can't last. Out for a fall hike, he discovers Dr. Juniper Sinclair, the town's lone doctor, attempting to revive small-time drug dealer Seymour Melnychuk, who has been shot in the forehead. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Gary Dowd abandons his van while crossing the US border. Gary is a local father of two, an accountant, and a steady, predictable guy. He's also been best friends with Seymour Melnychuk since elementary school.
Bern knows the two disturbing events must be related. Why was Dr. Sinclair already on the scene? Why did Gary Dowd disappear while trying to cross the border? Who truly controls the hills and forests around Kootenay Landing? Berin, with police constable Maddie Schilling, works to uncover the hidden ties that connect the two cases.
Amidst the chaos of the case, Bern's military background comes back to haunt him, forcing him to confront the secrets of his own past that he has long sought to keep buried. Everyone has something to hide, and no one in Kootenay Landing seems willing to talk. But Bern Fortin is well aware that no secret can remain buried forever--not even his own.

which makes me think that Cindy is a minor character. Yet we travel back to the 1980s to watch her grow up. And entire chapters are devoted to her character development. Why? I read on...

In the middle of the third chapter, our focus shifts from a policewoman to an unnamed man. I was lost for a few sentences. I guessed that the man must be Gary--but he's only referred to as 'he'. Seven paragraphs in, he's referred to as Gary and I'm relieved that I guessed right. And then the focus shifts from Gary to Bern. 

Page 31 answers the question of how Cindy fits into the plot. But I know there's more to learn. I read on...

I like how Collier is able to portray life through the eyes of a child.

Page 42 reveals Collier's skill at character development.

It's like being a new neighbour, I'm starting to figure out who everyone is.

I read not only for pleasure but to sharpen my writing skills. Reading Open Secret has helped me learn how to handle a character with an accent...
Tell your reader about the accent (i.e. thick, etc.) and then write words as a person with no accent would say them. Don't try to mimic the accent. There is less chance of getting the accent wrong and appearing comical. And you pay more respect to people with that accent.

Chapter 13 ends on such a powerful note.

Open Secret has a depth of plot as well as layers of clues. Collier uses her book to comment on Canada's treatment of Aboriginal youth and women as well as the poor and those involved in the drug culture.

Other themes...
A fragile woman is not quite as fragile as she appears. 
The strength of women to overcome, to conquer.
The exploitation of the innocent

An Open Secret is like an exposed wound--raw, painful. How do you live with it? How do you heal?
Many characters must struggle with these questions. The reoccurring message is to make your mistake public. Then pick up the pieces and move on.

Thank you, Deryn Collier for his captivating read. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for my mother-in-law.
Friday's Guest:  New York Times best-selling author Leann Sweeney
I'll be attending the Crime Writers of Canada mini conference at the Victoria General Library this Saturday (May 24th) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Mental note:  pack a lunch) 
Will you?
It's free.
And this is my fourth year (I think) attending. Year after year, I've never been disappointed. I come away with a mind loaded down with information and inspiration. And it's information that I can apply to whatever genre I'm writing. 
For more details visit Facebook
Sharing my author journey...
Have you heard, the more submissions you make the less rejection will hurt?
Ever wonder if it's true...

Yeah, I wondered too. But I'm not wondering any more. Now I know it's true.
This week I received a rejection all wrapped up nice and neat in an email. It was brief. Something along the lines of, we picked a winner and it wasn't you.
Was I disappointed?
But that lasted about a minute (maybe a little longer) then my mind wheeled with possibilities--where would my story go next?
That question was quickly answer, my story was polished and away it went.
Rejection, polish and submission all happened in the same day.
Total submissions since January 6th:  36. 37 and 38 wait at the door until Wednesday when I'll walk them to the Post Office.
Whatever you focus on grows. And if you focus on positivity you'll generate success.