Kelly Strom | Hidden identities keep readers entertained

Kelly Strom | Hidden identities keep readers entertained

It's been shown in history — and literature — that, at times, certain people are just not who their friends think they are. In fact, some of the best books from recent times pivot on the fact that any number of people carry hidden identities. The quest becomes figuring it all out before disaster strikes.

In Flynn Berry's latest novel, "A Double Life," the title says it all. The thing is, more than one character in the book is living life while tamping down the reality of their identity.

Claire is a doctor. She doesn't particularly enjoy her job, but it makes her a decent living, and the hours can be flexible for her real interest. For years, Claire has been trying to track down her father, almost obsessively. When she was a girl, she and her brother were asleep upstairs when a horrible murder took place in the house.

The brutal attack left the family housekeeper/nanny/cook dead, and her mother was severely injured. After running down the street to the local pub, her mother names Claire's father, Colin Spenser, as the perpetrator, then collapses. The next morning, her father's car is found abandoned by the river, and dad is nowhere to be found.

As the investigation drags on, Colin's wealthy lifelong friends make statements that cast doubt on who was the victim and who was the criminal.

This had a profound impact on both children, so much so that Claire had changed her name, preferring to live in anonymity, and her brother has problems with substance abuse.

Soon after the original attack, it became nationwide news, and all of England was on the hunt for the handsome and charming Colin Spenser.

Claire is unsatisfied with the efforts by the local police, and as an adult, she compiles queries and theories of her own.

Sightings are reported all over the globe, and each time, Claire is sure that this will be the time they finally capture him. She has devoted all of her idle time in making sure justice is achieved, yet still wondering what could have been the motive and what other secrets are her father's friends hiding?

Berry has also written "Under The Harrow," which was discussed in this column and won multiple awards. It wouldn't be surprising to see this plot turned into a movie script.

Elizabeth Haynes is an author who has an ability to touch on the insecurities and anxieties of her characters seamlessly. In her latest, "Never Alone," the reader meets Sarah Carpenter, a self-sufficient woman who struggles to make ends meet at a rural farmhouse in the moors of north Yorkshire. Along with her two dogs, Sarah lives alone while her daughter is away at university and her son is living his life, as far away from Sarah as possible.

A few years back, her husband died in a tragic car accident, and Sarah's son blames his mother for the crash. The reasons are not explained until the plot is further developed.

Since then, Sarah has led a lonely life up in the hills and was left with a pile of debt and no life insurance. When she connects with an old friend on the internet who needs a place to stay, Sarah offers to rent out her little guest cottage.

It seems as though her friend, Aiden Beck, has plenty of his own secrets. Pushing those aside, Sarah is determined to enjoy his company. Before long, she has an awareness of something wrong about him, her friends start acting a little odd, and Sarah is faced with a feeling of discomfort. The dogs are unusually sensitive to noises around the property, and Sarah doesn't know who she can trust.

As a heavy snowstorm enters the area, Sarah's daughter comes home for a long weekend and notices the strange happenings. With one dog poisoned and sent to the vet and another one determined to protect Sarah from harm, the tension builds.

Just in time for the storm to hit, they are trapped in the house, while someone lurks outside, and secrets begin to unfold.

Is Sarah really the doting mom she's made out to be? Why had the loving husband left the family with nothing? And what exactly does Aiden Beck do for a living?

Lots of secrets are buried and slowly become apparent as the story unfolds, all with a constant stream of suspicion.

This book would also make a great movie. With our own winter snowstorm this weekend, it's a great time to curl up with two novels full of suspense.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, ebooks, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

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