Sunday, 5 June 2016

THE SECRET by Deric Henderson

4 out of 5 stars

True life double murder

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

I bought this book after watching the TV series The Secret, starring James Nesbitt, as I imagine many have done.  For those who know nothing about it, it's the true story of Colin Howell, dentist and supposedly devout Baptist, who, together with his lover, Hazel Buchanan, hatched a plan to murder their two spouses, Lesley and Trevor.  Though suspected by many, their crimes went undetected for twenty years.

Colin Howell and Hazel Buchanan

Did this have anything to add to the TV series?  Yes, in that one can get a clearer picture of motive from a book. I must admit that I nearly stopped reading it by around ten per cent; the beginning is a bit stilted, with lots of irrelevant detail about Lesley's past, as if Henderson just sat down and typed up his research notes without deciding which had value to the reader; then again, perhaps he was was just honouring a woman who did not get to live her life.  I also felt that he was painting her as almost saintly, but as I turned the pages she seemed less so.  When the story turned to Trevor, there was, again, too much irrelevant detail, but the picture was built up of a simple, goodhearted sort of chap, devoted to his wife who he put on a pedestal.

Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan

I found the detail about Hazel Buchanan's life after the murders fascinating; it was clear that she experienced few moments of real happiness for the next twenty years.  Much of this detail was provided by a man she treated badly during a seven year relationship, but there is much to be read between the lines.  As for Howell himself, he is well portrayed as as a narcissist, possibly a psychopath, a manipulative egomaniac whose life was a complicated mess of smoke and mirrors ~ pretty much how James Nesbitt played him!  I was struck by how none of them, despite their supposed religious faith, seemed particularly Christian, aside from Trevor, perhaps...

The Howells in 1991

There is much in the way of quotes from people who knew or were related to the four of them, which was interesting, and it underlines the peculiar world of a small religious community such as theirs. I wanted to know more about the ludicrous Phillipines gold scam in which Howell became involved; that he squandered the family's fortune in this way made me wonder if his sanity was failing, then, or if he wanted to punish himself... many questions are raised throughout.
Hazel, appearing at Court

The book is repetitive at times, but this is perhaps inevitable when recounting a story and then the court case that follows.  I'd say that if you found the series as absorbing as I did, you'll be interested to read this; I liked the way that Henderson does not seem to judge too much throughout, just delivering the facts, though at times this made it more like a newspaper article than a biographical story.  It reads better as it goes on, though, and gives insight into the lives of Howell and Hazel and their families post conviction.  Worth getting, if not quite as compelling as I'd hoped.

Howell with second wife, Kyle

No comments:

Post a Comment