Book Review: Only We Know


Only We Know, by Karen Perry, tells the story of three childhood friends who harbour a dreadful secret. They were complicit in the death of another child, but what exactly happened must on no account be shared. Their parents, now dead, made them promise never to tell anyone for fear of repercussions. The guilt they carry has haunted them for more than thirty years.

The story opens in Kenya, in the summer of 1982. Eight year old Katie has befriended Luke and Nick, the similarly aged sons of her mother’s friend who they have spent the summer with. Before they return home to Ireland a three day safari to the Masai Mara is arranged. On the last day, as the children play by a river close to the families’ campsite, a tragedy unfolds.

The story jumps to 2013. Katie is a journalist and has been asked to write about Luke, now a successful businessman who has recently captured the public’s interest. Katie has seen little of him over the years, a state encouraged by their parents. Whilst at university Katie briefly rekindled her friendship with Nick, but he has now returned to Nairobi where he plays piano in the clubs and bars.

The tale is told from each of the protagonists point of view, moving between 1982 and 2013. On several key points the reader is led to think one thing only to have it revealed as incorrect. This is clever but somewhat confusing at times.

The slow reveal of what happened on that day by the river is well done, with the impact of the parents’ actions shown to be the catalyst for subsequent events. I did question why, as they matured, the childhood trio didn’t challenge the continued need for secrecy, but am aware that family foibles and feelings can be a tricky minefield to navigate.

In both time periods the development of the characters was believable, their flaws recognisable and sympathetically presented. The denouement, however, stretched this and felt somewhat contrived.

It is a slickly written tale with a compelling plot that I read easily in a day. Looking back though I am left feeling somewhat ambivalent. I suspect it is a book that would be enjoyed most by fans of classic whodunnits. Personally, I prefer a little more depth and challenge.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the Curtis Brown Book Group.