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Ratings and Book Reviews (3 4 star ratings
3 reviews
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4.3 out of 5
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  • A real page turner

    I couldn't put the book down. The plot had pace and realism and I didn't see the ending coming until the last minute. A good read.

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  • Shocking & Compelling

    School secretary Ruth Clarkson is divorced from Will, and they have an eight-year-old son, Sam. Ruth has a fling with Rob, the husband of Janine Walker, the head of the PTA at the primary school where Ruth works. Following an altercation at the school gates with Rob and Janine which is witnessed, so begins a catastrophic spiralling of events for many, though especially Ruth. The Secretary was a riveting, fast-paced psychological thriller that I couldn't put down. I was desperate to find out what would happen next as Ruth made one terrible decision after another in the wake of the threats, hostility and rumour being heaped on her. Although I cannot claim to like any of Zoe Lea's characters in this novel, they all had their respective parts to play within the commanding plot. Ruth, for me, was the most developed cast member and with every incident the shock value intensified as the story winged its way to the startling, dramatic denouement. I'm now keen to read another of Zoe Lea's novels, If He Wakes, as well as eagerly anticipating what she has in the pipeline, next. I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Little, Brown Book Group UK/ Piatkus via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.

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  • Let down by an unrealistic main character

    The Secretary is a dark psychological thriller that shows how one action and its consequences can start to unravel a person’s life. We start with school secretary Ruth who unwittingly reveals she’s had an affair with the husband of head of the PTA in front of both his wife and many people at the school. This then begins a whole chain of events and the two start to fight dirty with both reputations and businesses at stake. My main problem with this story was the main character of Ruth - nearly every decision she made felt forced and unrealistic. Even the beginning action of yelling at a man she had an affair with who she has just found out is married at the school gates in front of witnesses seemed such a silly thing to do. Although I liked the idea that one action could ruin a person’s life and how Ruth changed her morals to deal with the issue it just seemed so hard to sympathise with her. I spent the majority of the book internally yelling at every stupid decision she made. I felt that if she had been a much more likeable character to begin with, without the violent past and over exaggerated response at the school gates this would have been a much more impactful and cautionary tale. As the story was told from Ruth’s perspective we didn’t really get to explore or sympathise properly with any of the other characters which only led to more annoyance with Ruth. I did like how the stakes and the pace ramped up as the book went along and parts were truly dark. However, I found the plotting a little odd in places - lots of small pieces that were made to seem really important turned out to be dead ends and the narration from a character in prison didn’t really make sense, even with the end reveal. Overall, The Secretary is a dark read but is let down by an unlikeable and unrealistic protagonist. Thank you to NetGalley & Little Brown Group UK – Piatkus for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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