Let This Be Our Secret is a remarkable true crime story set on Ireland's north coast where the bodies of a couple were found in a car filled with carbon monoxide fumes - the apparent victims of a suicide pact.
But 18 years later, wealthy dentist Colin Howell confessed to police that it was he and his then lover, Hazel Buchanan, who murdered their respective partners. All four belonged to Coleraine Baptist Church. Howell later re-married an American divorcee, while Buchanan, a mother of two, eventually began a new life with a senior policeman who was once a staff officer to the former RUC Chief Constable Hugh Annesley. Howell went on to run hugely successful dental implant surgeries in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim and Bangor, Co. Down, but despite his strong Baptist beliefs, he lived a secret life of lust, deceit, and greed. It was to prove to be his undoing when his life unraveled spectacularly at Christmas 2008 with heavy overseas investment losses linked to a project to find Japanese gold hidden in the Philippines. And he has admitted other affairs and sexual advances to his dental patients. Hazel Buchanan, Howell's ex-lover, also re-married. She emerged as a high-maintenance and glamorous keep-fit fanatic who according to friends always had a haunted look, fearing that sooner or later an investigating police officer would one day tap her on the shoulder. Out of Northern Ireland's dark and troubled history has emerged a crime like no other.
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- Squeaky Joe
A thought-provoking tale
True crime story set in Northern Ireland where an apparent suicide pact turned out to be a double murder. Eighteen years after the incident, dentist Colin Howell confessed to police, telling them he and his former lover, Hazel Buchanan, murdered their respective spouses.
Although superbly narrated by Gary Furlong, this book got off to a slow start and took quite a while to fully grab my attention. Part of this was due to a lot of repetition – the accounts from friends, neighbours, church members etc, relating their thoughts on the murder and the two couples’ relationships, became tedious and for the most part seemed irrelevant to the story, especially as many individuals churned out the same hackneyed phrases. The book would have had more appeal if the author had simply stuck to the facts rather than trying to paint a picture of the hearts and minds of the entire community.
Having said that, the details of the murderous twosome’s relationship, their deceitful behaviour and the planning and execution of the murders, is fascinating. What is slightly unbelievable is how Colin Howell was continually supported by his church and its members – any sensible community group would surely have seen through his lies long before things got out of hand.
A thought-provoking tale, marred by a rather pedestrian writing style.