Review of ‘The Secretary’ by Renée Knight

I read this thriller in 24 hours. I’m not sure what kind of thriller it is – domestic, courtroom, corporate? – but the writing style had me compulsively reading ‘just one more chapter’ and soon I’d finished it. This novel is better than the author’s previous book Disclaimer.

The story is narrated by a secretary named Christine, who for many years has worked for the owner of a supermarket chain, Mina Appleton. It’s not just a 9 to 5 job – Mina expects her secretary to be there for her any time and to do anything she asks. Christine is loyal and such a workaholic that she makes a lot of sacrifices in her own life in order to make her employer’s life easier. The story itself, I didn’t find that interesting, although I appreciated the topical nature of the court case. It was the way Christine told it that intrigued me. Her narration is quite formal in style and full of hints expertly dropped to make you want to read on. Christine is not a likeable character. I don’t think we are meant to like her. She seems rather buttoned up and you never really get a sense of who she is, but as she says early on, experienced secretaries can be distant as they have learnt to be discreet and efficient.

Although the story is set in the real world, there are details which are not at all credible – I won’t say how, as that would spoil the book for you – which didn’t bother me, but if you like everything to be cleverly plausible and are apt to worry over things that don’t add up, then it’s best you don’t read it.

First published in 2019.

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