Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

23566896 Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta is quite simple a brilliant, moving and thought-provoking book that deals with so many familiar, contemporary and ideologically thorny and relevant issues in a sensitive and meaningful way.

The title is a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, a king who was greatly misunderstood and is often cast by history and, indeed, his contemporaries, as a murderer of the worst kind. For his entire reign, he dealt with suspicion, distrust, gossip and attempts to assassinate his character and his actual person. It’s not surprising then that the novel also deals with someone, actually, a family, accused of murder most foul: terrorism and the brutal slaying of 23 people when a home-made bomb is detonated in a local supermarket, destroying lives, families and cultural relations. Just like Henry IV, the family and the community deal with the fallout, gossip, and everything and anything else the media and suspicious, racist minds can generate.

Fast forward 13 years, and the scene is set for another bomb to explode – this time in France on a bus containing British kids on tour. The novel then follows the inevitable fallout that occurs when it’s discovered that the daughter of one of the original terrorists, a young women named Violette, was a passenger on the destroyed bus. Worse, she’s disappeared and taken a young boy with her. Suspended DI, Bish Ortley, whose daughter, Bee, survives the carnage, commences an investigation into the tragedy. Crossing continents, counties, encountering co-operative parents, scared and hostile ones, cultural and racial conflict, as well as his own personal demons, Bish is determined to find Violette and the boy and protect them. But there are others, including a rapacious and unforgiving media who have other ideas.

Set across mainly two countries, England and France, it nevertheless draws other countries (including Australia), cultures and faiths and the people that represent these into its narrative. Avoiding stereotypes, Marchetta constructs real people who you engage with, believe in and champion with every breath, every word. The demonisation of Otherness, the way misunderstandings are formed, and cultural appropriation manipulated, is charted and exposed in all its callus cruelty as is the ease at which we’re prepared to accept the worst of people before the best; the way in which we allow fear to govern our responses even when our hearts and heads tell us differently. It’s also a story about families, about young people, trust, loyalty and the bonds that both tie and divide us.

A timely, superb book and beautifully and powerfully written, that will have you thinking well beyond the last page.


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Tell the Truth by Katherine Howell

imgres-5I was both so looking forward to reading this book, Tell the Truth by Katherine Howell and, frankly, dreading it. Excited because I think Howell is an extraordinary writer who has a light yet masterful touch when it comes to creating utterly convincing characters, great dialogue and a plot that lures you in – I relish a new work by her and it’s moved straight to the top of my “must-read” pile. I was also dreading reading this book because of these exact same things only this time burdened with the knowledge that this is the last novel (hopefully, for the time being only), Howell will write in a while. An announcement late last year on her FaceBook fan page warned fans that Howell is retiring from writing …for the time being.

So, it was with very mixed feelings I read Tell the Truth, in one unable- to-put-down session and what I can say is it certainly brings this wonderful series featuring Sydney detective, Ella Marconi, to a realistic and fabulous close.

Tell the Truth is a fast-paced, page-tuner par excellence with an unexpected and fitting conclusion that draws the threads of not only the major plot in this book to a close, but the narrative arc of Marconi’s roller-coaster personal and professional life (across all eight) as well.

The novel opens when young, happily married paramedic, Stacey Durham, is reported missing and then her car is found covered in blood. Marconi is on the case, questioning the usual suspects – the frantic husband, an over-familiar colleague, resentful sister and so on. Suspicion is rife and the reader vacillates between who might-have-dunnit and who we’re convinced did not. When mysterious notes appear with “…tell the truth” scribed upon them, it appears as though the missing person investigation might just become a murder one – that is, if Marconi doesn’t find some answers swiftly.

While I didn’t see the ending, I never mind if I do providing the author ties it up persuasively and there is none of this ex machina stuff or a character who conveniently appears in the last pages pops up, is linked to the victims and charged.

Howell never does this to her reader. Her beginning, middle and endings, like her characters and their motivations, are always totally believable. She leaves readers satisfied but wanting more as well. Able to not only write a gratifying police procedural, Howell also explores the emotional and psychological complexity of people and the relationships we form – private and public, personal and professional, and the lengths we’ll go to maintain the perfect front in order to spare others and even ourselves from the shame and regret of poor choices. In this novel, Howell also delves into friendship, familial bonds, and the ties that bind and break us.

All in all, this is a ripper of a read from a terrific writer. I am just so disappointed this marks a departure from writing for Howell, though if it’s really a finale, it’s a grand one.


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