Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?
Eighty-four-year-old Karl Weiss and his wife Grete are found murdered in their home in suburban Adelaide. Granddaughter Juliet is left distraught and at a loss to explain who would do such a thing and why? When police discover the ring Karl always wore is missing – a ring that was given to him by war-time friend Hans Whemar – Juliet suspects there may be a connection.
Soon after, Juliet’s sister Lily resurfaces, she has the ring and has gone into hiding. Lily has had a tumultuous relationship with her grandparents. Could her sister have been involved in this horrific crime? When it becomes clear to Juliet that she is being followed and that someone is determined to make sure the past is forgotten, she takes things into her own hands.
Threaded through Juliet’s story is that of her grandfather Karl Weiss, who Post WW2 fled his home country for a new start. Karl Weiss boarded the Fairsea with Hans to immigrate to Australia where he arrived with a small bag, a very big secret and a promise that he finds hard to keep.
Author Sonya Bates skilfully weaves the history of Europe in the 1950s with a current day mystery in Adelaide, Australia. Written from the perspective of Juliet and Karl, dual timelines allow for a gradual unwinding of this great historical fiction and thriller.
Interestingly the character of Karl was inspired by author Sonya Bates’s own father, a German soldier during World War 2, who was drafted and went to war after his 18th birthday. He went to the front and was in a POW camp, survived the war and then emigrated to America in the 1950s.
Her father didn’t talk about these events in his life but as Sonya got older, she started to think about the impact that they must have had on him and that was the starting point for the fictional Karl.
I thoroughly enjoyed the fast-paced thriller aspect of the book but what really makes it shine is the history that underpins the plot. The characters of Karl and Grete are beautifully imagined and their rich history heart-warming to share in. Inheritance of Secrets is also an exploration of loyalty, friendship and family and the challenges of making the right decision.
Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has lived in South Australia since 1997 and while this is her debut adult novel, she has written several children’s books. Inheritance of Secrets was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018. Compared to Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz, this book definitely lives up to that praise! I highly recommend.