by Richard Barre
published by Berkley Prime Crime
a 1996 release
Bearing Secrets is a superb novel. One has a tendency to ladle on accolades and fulsome adjectives until the feeling that no book can be THAT good becomes a barrier to readers. Expectations can be raised too high. But this is a superb novel. This complex, rhythmic, multi-textured novel reaches out to the reader and inexorably draws one tighter and tighter.
It starts with hard-nosed PI Wil Hardesty and an anguished cry for help from a prickly, vulnerable, twenty-year-old hard-case named Holly Pfeiffer. Hardesty’s marriage is coming apart and he doesn’t know how to stop it. Mostly to distract himself from his personal troubles, he agrees to see Holly. But when he gets to her cabin near Lake Tahoe, he is repeatedly, rebuffed. This woman is a product of her radical father’s teachings. He was a veteran of Viet Nam, and then returned to Berkley where he used his considerable intelligence and skill to harass the authorities and teach military tactics to a violent splinter group of dissidents. Naturally, his activities draw the attention of the establishment.
When Holly’s father Max, dies in a fall from a high ledge in the mountains, Holly accuses the FBI of killing him. After all, the gospel according to Max had taught her that years earlier the FBI engineered her mother’s death via a car bomb. In spite of her attempts to rid herself of Hardesty, in Holly’s view just another establishment lackey, Hardesty begins a patient, earnest attempt to learn some truths. For a time, the only secrets he bares make Max look guilty. But of what? And then....
Read Bearing Secrets and you will be appalled, exhilarated, horrified and energized. This way lies death, explicit and terrible; here lies corruption and there is exploitation. You are quickly caught up in wheels within wheels. Barre builds tension and suspense cleanly and handles both with dexterity and believability. Fully-formed characters strive against insidious power, fail under the weight of crushing secrets, and strive again.
Yet author Barre does not dwell lovingly on the horror. This book is cleanly written, carefully plotted and very, very intense. It will require attention and careful reading, but Bearing Secrets will reward you in full measure.