Author Adele Parks is a tease. Relentlessly so.
At least, judging by One Last Secret (paperback, HQ/Harper Collins, 2022) it seems she simply can’t help herself.
She never stops. Just when you think you know what is going on, she drops another bombshell and lures you into reading on . . . and on . . . and on. All of it in brilliant, sparkling prose and sharp obsrvations. And done with the lightest of touches.
It is irresistable.
She has fashioned One Last Secret into a tantalising page turner from its intriguing opening paragraphs to the very last lines.
The book is the story of Dora, told mostly in her own words.
Dora is a survivor. No matter what befalls her, she picks herself up, dusts herself off and . . . well, you know how it goes.
As she explains on the first page, ‘no little girl grows up dreaming of becoming an escort, a sex worker, a whore.’
But that is Dora’s lot. It is one which she staunchly defends and would be happy to include on her CV.
It has enabled her to develop numerous skills that would make her a valued employee in all manner of roles.
Every one of those skills is adeptly deployed in coping with the unpredictable behaviours and demands of her clientele.
Her name, like many other ‘facts’ she presents, may not be the entire truth. But, in terms of current faddish parlance, it is her ‘truth’ .
Thus she chronicles a life of misfortune piled upon misfortune with relentless honesty.
She is feisty and no one’s fool and wants to be accepted as such. Being accepted and appreciated are goals well ahead of riches and fame.
If only her clients could understand that and look beyond the sex worker label.
They degrade, mistreat and brutalise her. But, for Dora, after she has manipulated events to her own purpose, revenge becomes a dish best served not cold but with red hot and fiery vengeance.
A cameo appearance from her canny mother throws a light on Dora’s early days only to later create still more shadows as her murky world becomes murkier and more dangerous. Another person’s version of the same ‘truth’.
Partners, lovers, clients also chip in briefly to add further confusion to this maze of a tale.
Steadily and relentlessly, author Parks ramps up the pace. Treachery, double-dealing and lies follow in rapid succession as the story moves from seedy London to excess luxury on the French Riviera.
Dora is betrayed by those she had trusted the most. Death looms at every step she makes.
Surprise betrayals stymie all bids to escape a bloody scene that paints her as the perpetrator and not the victim.
But as the title says, there is one last secret.