Inheritance of Secrets opens with its narrator, Juliet, in the Adelaide morgue to identify the bodies of her viciously murdered grandparents, Karl and Grete Weiss. It’s the great and terrible blow that cracks her life wide and fills it with doubt, grief, fear and danger.
As she and her estranged sister Lily try to understand what’s happened, and to disprove the accusation that their beloved grandfather was a secret Nazi, they uncover answers to some of puzzles surrounding their family trauma.
Through a series of flashbacks, the reader gets to see what actually happened when Karl Weiss travelled to Australia as a migrant on the Fairsea, and subsequent events that lay in wait for 60 years until a killer came to call. The two storylines eventually converge, but only when both young Karl and present-day Juliet have faced some serious threats.
Threat hangs heavy in the air throughout Inheritance of Secrets – the elusive Lily is clearly involved in some very shady dealings which leave her fearful and furtive, though her instincts may help her and Juliet in the long term. Juliet’s journalist friend Ellis has fingers in multiple pies. Things aren’t helped by Juliet’s ambitious fiancé, Jason, who is less interested in helping Juliet than in making partner at his firm.
Sonya Bates leads us through carefully the morass of accusation, confusion and threats, leaving us to doubt until late in the piece about Karl’s real history. Juliet is frequently rather hapless, as we all would be under the same conditions, but when the crisis reaches a peak, she’s resourceful. Her complex relationship with her Lily, Ellis and Jason add texture and complications to what’s already a fraught time for her, and you easily get as enmeshed in her private life as in the investigation.
The prose zips along and the reader has the pleasure of watching Juliet reconnect with Lily, realise some important things in her life and come to a renewed sense of herself by the conclusion.
A very satisfying read with a conclusion that fits Juliet’s character and the book’s themes of inherited secrets.
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