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Turning Secrets by Brenda Chapman

Reviewed by Jim Napier

When the lifeless body of a young woman is found at the foot of a Kingston tower under construction, the case appears to be open and shut. Not surprising, then, that opioids and alcohol were found in the victim’s body. But that still leaves several questions: Did she jump, or was she pushed? In fact, did she even die there?

The investigation winds its way back through the victim’s final days. She is identified as Nadia Armstrong. A single mother living in a squalid apartment, in debt to others and who’d been selling her body to get by, she had plenty of motives to end her life. But Kingston police detective Kala Stonechild wants to know more about Nadia, and bit by bit she peels back the layers of Nadia’s all-too-brief and squalid life. What Kala finds goes far beyond the clichéd tale of a luckless victim of life’s vicissitudes to reveal a network of deceit, greed and corruption; and before it has ended, many people will be held to account.

A layered tale, this outing finds Kala also attempting to come to grips with her personal relationship with fellow officer Paul Gundersund, whose estranged wife still hovers on the edge of the picture. And Kala’s loyalty to her superior officer, Jacques Rouleau, is tested when she learns that confidential details of the case are being leaked to the press, and she fears that reporter Marci Stokes may be taking advantage of her relationship with Rouleau.

Adding to these challenges, and unknown to her, Kala’s niece Dawn has fallen into an uneasy friendship with some girls at her high school, but one of them harbours a secret that endangers them all. And did I mention that Dawn’s ex-con father, Fisher Dumont, has shown up in town and wants to see his daughter?

An intricate and disturbing tale, Turning Secrets is nevertheless very much a chronicle of our troubled times. Chapman perfectly captures the dark side of contemporary life and the nuanced range of characters that inhabit it, from calculating and manipulative villains to their guileless and unsuspecting victims, and those merely caught up in the crossfire. The result is a satisfying story that never sacrifices honesty to achieve an easy end. Yet another fine novel from this talented and insightful author.

Note: fans of Stonechild and Rouleau will also be interested in Closing Time, Chapman’s final entry in the series, which will appear in 2020.

Turning Secrets is published by Dundurn.


Jim Napier is a professional crime-fiction reviewer based in Canada. Since 2005 his book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian newspapers and on multiple websites. His crime novel Legacy was published in April of 2017, and the next in the series, Ridley’s War, is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2020. He can be reached

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