Author: HR Kemp
Publisher/Year: H.R. Kemp/H Schuster Publishing/2020
Can ordinary people thwart a powerful conspiracy?
Shelley Ormond’s life is about to change forever. Her friend, a young refugee, dies suddenly and the federal police have shrouded her case in secrecy. Shelley has never been bold, but she will have to break the rules and jeopardise her safe, public service career to learn the truth.
Her new friend Adrian, a medical researcher, is studying a mystery illness in outback communities. Young children are falling fatally ill, but there’s no obvious cause although suspicious mining activity in the area is worth investigating.
Shelley delves deeper and is drawn into a sinister world of police cover-ups, organised crime and corporate greed. If she obeys the law, the powerful can go on breaking it.
The stakes are high, and the treacherous schemers will do anything to keep their deadly secrets. Lives don’t matter, not even hers.
Can they expose the plot before more lives are lost?
Will the formidable and ruthless forces behind the conspiracy stop them?
Reviewer 1: Narrelle Harris
There’s a lot to like in HR Kemp’s debut thriller, Deadly Secrets. Set in contemporary Australia, it speaks to a lot of my personal concerns about the treatment of asylum seekers, political inaction on climate change, and political manipulation of both government departments and Federal Police services.
Deadly Secrets follows multiple threads on these issues, but the main viewpoint character is Shelley Ormond, who we meet on European holiday from her work in the department of immigration, not long after an unpleasant divorce. There she meets medical researcher, Adrian at a climate change rally and his group of activist friends.
In parallel, we meet unscrupulous Australian Prime Minister Wrogarth and his aids as they prepare for the next election. Skulduggery is clearly afoot, and Wrogarth is just as clearly in deep with some ugly types in the mining industry, just for beginners.
Shelley’s professional need to remain neutral comes under increasing pressure as she investigates the apparent suicide of a vulnerable refugee she’d been helping. The more she learns the more a wider issue becomes uncovered, forcing her to choose to be ‘just following orders’ or to take a stand. At the same time, Wrogarth’s machinations begin to unravel.
However, while there are some good ideas and good writing, the pace is a bit choppy at the start and then much too fast in the last few chapters. Some key events are wound up offstage and only reported by third parties, and I’m sorry to have missed what could have been scenes of fantastic tension and kick.
The political thriller at the centre of the tale fits the title tag of “what unspeakable truths lurk beneath the lies?” Deadly Secrets is worth a look, despite its flaws.
Reviewer 2: Lesley Vick
In this thriller contemporary social and political themes are foremost and the author’s political viewpoint is clear. Newly divorced Shelley Ormond works in the government’s refugee resettlement program and her commitment to those she is helping is very clear, as is her growing dismay about the government’s policies on the treatment of refugees. Her life is at a turning point after the end of her unsatisfactory marriage and she takes a break in Paris where she gets caught up in a climate change demonstration.
She befriends a couple of other Australians she meets in the turmoil of the rally (this story takes place in a Covid 19 free context) and she is drawn to their commitment to the cause. Her new friend Adrian is a medical researcher who has worked in Africa and Australia investigating a mystery illness among indigenous children where it appears that mining activity could be a cause. Shelley is then shocked to hear of the unexpected and suspicious suicide of a young refugee she knows, particularly as the circumstances of the death are covered up.
Shelley and Adrian become romantically involved and after they return to Australia Shelley investigates further, putting her public service job at risk. Shelley has always tended to avoid confrontation but now she has been inspired to act. When one of their friends is arrested she and Adrian realise they could also be in danger by investigating the extent of government corruption, organised crime and environmental destruction they are uncovering. It seems likely that those behind these developments may be very important indeed.
While in Paris, Shelley and Adrian had happened to see the Australian Prime Minister, James Wrogath, but, mysteriously, his presence there had not been publicised. This arouses their suspicions, particularly as he seems to have links to the secret activities they have discovered. Privately, Wrogath is ambitious and ruthless, unlike the more benign figure he presents in public, and both he and those around him have much to lose if their deadly secrets are exposed.
Shelley, Adrian and their friends have the chance to expose those secrets at great risk to themselves or turn a blind eye to the criminal and corrupt behaviour of extremely powerful people. In the context of several current controversies, this book is a sharp reminder of how challenging – and dangerous – blowing the whistle can be. The book deals with real life political issues and the author addresses them with honesty and a commitment to the pursuit of justice