Complex web as family mysteries and secrets unfold

THE SECRET SON<br><b>Jenny Ackland</b><br><i>Allen & Unwin</i>
THE SECRET SON<br><b>Jenny Ackland</b><br><i>Allen & Unwin</i>
A yellow dog lies in the shade on a dusty Turkish afternoon watching the ''sugar men'' of a hilltop village sip sweet tea.

In a Cadillac on a winding road below is a young man and a home historian from Australia in search of answers to difficult questions.

Jenny Ackland has created a complex web of characters and circumstances to tell the story of a fractured Turkish family in The Secret Son, her debut novel.

We're first introduced to James, a gentle giant who's forced from his quiet Victorian country life into pre-war Melbourne and then on to the battlefields of Gallipoli.

His mother dies with the secret that James is the son of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly.

From the trenches, James is taken to a remote Turkish village by a young enemy soldier, who owes his health to English troops.

James finds peace on foreign soil, the blissful isolation and honey bees reminding him of home, but he can't escape his paternal lineage.

A century on, the travels of an unlikely pair cause deep secrets to be teased out as old debts and family curses are revealed.

Relatives fill in the gaps and broaden the mystery simultaneously as they welcome kin from faraway lands.

• Rosie Manins is chief reporter at Dunedin Television.

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