The Teacher’s Secret by Suzanne Leal

This is the story of Terry Pritchard, an older male teacher in the small coastal town of Brindle. The story spans a school year and starts with the first day of the new term. The long-standing Principle has taken a leave of absence and Laurie Mathews has replaced her. She’s young and self-righteous and has a clear code of how schools should operate. Having come from a background of child protection, Laurie has her eye on Terry who she finds in compromising situations with students. Terry is a much-loved teacher and member of the community. However, his behaviour results in his forced retirement and this is the secret theme that runs through the book. Is Terry as sinister as Laurie makes him out to be? Whilst it is Terry’s story, there’s a cast of characters attached to Brindle. Nina is the teacher who replaces Terry and has just separated from her husband moved to the area with her young daughter. Sid is the school handyman and finds out it is never too late to fall in love. Joan is alone after her mother died and lives a shy and quiet life, until she meets Sid. There’s Rebecca, a refugee from Africa and Mel who married young and has never left Brindle. The event that binds them together is the end of year play.

The author is a lawyer and she brings authenticity to the child protection and refugee storylines. With a big story and a multitude of characters, it was a slow burn to the action but it’s a nicely told tale with an appropriate level of drama and suspense.

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