After my recent foray in reading Catherine Cookson books, I came across a sequel written by Rosie Goodwin. All I can say is that I really wish I hadn’t.
As I always like to give a reason when I rate a book with three stars of less, here are my thoughts on The Mallen Secret:
What an utter pile of dross. That was my first thought upon finishing this book (and let me tell you that there is a part of me that wishes I had not bothered with the chore of pressing on to the end).
Do you remember that time in 1991 when someone thought it was a great idea to bring out a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind? I remember being really excited to get my hands on it, and then the crushing disappointment that came with reading it. This is what can happen when you take beloved characters and carry on the story long after the author had written “The End.” And unfortunately, this is what has happened here.
For me, what was missing from the book, ultimately, was Catherine Cookson – her heart, her brilliance at her storytelling craft, and, most importantly, her authenticity as a Northerner. This book could have been set anywhere – the occasional dropping in of a “hinny” just did not cut it for me. The plot was largely implausible, particularly the plot twist at the end, and I just did not understand the underlying motivation for many of the characters, particularly the revenge aspect of the plot (which I will not go into, mostly to avoid spoilers, and secondly, because, really, when it comes down to it, I just cannot be bothered).
The other major issue which impaired any enjoyment I might have derived from the book was that while the author had clearly done her research, BOY did she make sure that the reader knew this. We got a lesson in how fashions had changed from pre-war to post-war from a man who, if he was staying true to his character, didn’t give a toss, statements regarding women in government, and the worst one, from my perspective was the private investigator (and a criminal on the side) telling us precisely how many people had been hanged from x year to y year. Did he Google that before carrying on with his ridiculous quest? (of course he didn’t, so why was it expressed so exactly, unless the author wanted us to know how much research she had done).
After plodding on for about 100 more pages than it needed to, the ending unravelled quite quickly, with most of the story wrapped up in a neat package, stretching my patience to absolute breaking point with just how contrived the conclusion to particular character arcs had been. I regret reading this book. The bottom line, is that while it may have drawn inspiration from Cookson – it just wasn’t her.