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Family Secrets is the second installment in The Conrad Chronicles, author Doug Dalzell's trilogy about the wealthy medical family in Chicago with ties to organized crime there. It is a prequel of sorts to Seat 23, the first book in the trilogy published by Kepson LLC. Whereas Seat 23's central character was Jason Conrad, Family Secrets' is Jason's grandfather, the patriarch of the Conrad clan, Oliver Conrad. Through adroit use of flashback, Dalzell tells the story of this larger-than-life character, who comes of age in the late 1940s and builds a successful medical practice and starts a family in the 1950s (after fathering an illegitimate, mixed-race child). Then, almost by accident, he becomes associated with the mobsters who owned part of his father's business and who now help him get started in investing in real estate, a sideline that soon grows into an empire and eclipses his medical career. Oliver's rambling suburban mansion, whose basement holds a dark secret locked inside a hidden-away, long-forgotten steamer trunk, assumes an almost main-character position in the book. It is a solid, touchstone-constant throughout Oliver's life, in and around which Dalzell weaves a convincing tapestry of 90-plus years of American history. Dalzell has a particular talent with connecting all the sub-plots and minor characters with the main thread of the story - deftly, seamlessly moving from one to the other. As in Seat 23, the twists and turns in the plot of Family Secrets are not announced with a bullhorn. Rather, they sneak up on the reader with a beguiling subtlety. Just when you think you know where the action is leading to, it veers off in unexpected - sometimes shocking - directions. Readers are advised - as they were in Seat 23 - to take nothing for granted.
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