The Island of Secrets Book Review
"These people glitter and sparkle under the crystal lights, the women with their diamond rings and necklaces, the men with their brilliantined hair." - Island of Secrets, Rachel Rhys
Three words to describe this book: Brilliant, Evocative, Balmy.
November has arrived and with the soft whispers of winter beckoning, the summer months have become but a distant memory. I must admit, I have fallen in love with the autumn season and this year I pulled out my winter wear with gusto, lit my cinnamon candles with care and prepared my stash of hot chocolate to dip into for a warming pick me up. But as much as one can fall in love with this season of hibernation and comfort, a part of me still yearns for the warmth of the sun on my face. If you are finding it particularly difficult to adjust to the darkening skies and shorter daylight hours, I have the perfect read to help you escape - if not just for a little while. Rachel Rhys, otherwise known as psychological thriller writer Tammy Cohen, brilliantly evokes the golden age of the 1950s in this colorful blaze of a novel, bringing to life the socially sultry and politically volatile hotbed that was Cuba. We are first introduced to our inquisitive and modest protagonist, Iris Bailey, longing to escape her humdrum life in Hemel Hempstead. Living with her parents and stuck working in the typing pool, her true passion for art and drawing is fast becoming a forgotten dream. But, out of sheer luck she is given an unexpected out [at least for a short while]. With the arrival of a wedding invitation from a previous contact called Nell, a rambunctious and energetic American socialite, Iris is given a once in a lifetime opportunity to finally put her skills to work once again. But shortly after her arrival it becomes clear that all is not what it appears and we are propelled into one chaotic situation after another.
"The air is thick with cigar smoke and Spanish words that, to Iris's ears, rise and fall in a melodic cadence to match the classical music that plats discreetly in the background."
Readers, a warning. You will find yourself getting hot under the collar and not just from Rhy’s expert invocations of the tropical Cuban climate. The constant unusual goings on and the threat of impending danger promises for a tense read, only magnified by the persistent shadow of revolution. This novel achieves the desired blend of sustained action with a delicately intricate, and often complicated story line. The innumerable rivulets of character plot lines are pieced together seamlessly in one final and stunning crescendo. A small side note, I couldn't help but compare Rhys's work to the much loved, 'The Great Gatsby". A tenuous link one might say. Yet the undeniable glossy veneer of glitz and glamour exhibited by the Cuban expat contingent proves to be a fierce match to the cast of Fitzgerald's Roaring Twenties. Moreover, the outsider status of both Iris and Nick Carraway to their corresponding social circles finds its distinct parallels.
Any quintessential romantic elements certainly fall into the periphery. Ultimately, this is a classic mystery novel at its core with an unexpected guide. Make sure to savour its chocolate box selection of supporting characters who prove captivating with their humorous repartee and hushed conversations. This in combination with the rich historical setting of Havana, depicted in all of its seductive and deadly glory, will easily transport you away to a bygone era with the turn of every page.
During this time when purchasing a plane ticket can prove difficult, I offer you an alternative. The Island of Secrets is an offbeat pass to a whole new place, time and feeling that will send your head reeling with excitement and fervor. However, tread lightly, otherwise you may find yourself reevaluating your own life, as Miss Bailey was led to do.
Where to read: At home or by the ocean, when the sun is just about to set.
What to read it with: A glass of Havana club neat, with this soundtrack playing in the background.
Purchase The Island of Secrets here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Island-Secrets-Rachel-Rhys/dp/1784164895