The Devil is in the detail

Tell the Truth, Shame the DevilTell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, this amazing tour de force, was a joy to read. Not only because it was written by the revered Melina Marchetta, but also because it is a well-paced, intriguing mystery/suspense novel. Honestly, is there nothing this author cannot do?
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil begins with a phone call, as many great mysteries do, communicating to Bish Ortley that a bomb has exploded on his daughter’s tour bus in Calais. Bish, currently suspended from the Met, races through the Channel Tunnel not knowing what he will find at the other end. We know early on that the relationship between father and daughter is strained.

“a postcard from Bee: You said to send you a line from Normandy. That was it. No Dear Dad or Miss you heaps. As someone used to spending his days dealing with the scum of the earth, Bish Ortley found no species crueller than the adolescent female.”

As the tale progresses, we get a better picture of Bish as a flawed and struggling man – one who still carries enormous guilt over the death of his son – and a man who has to learn to like himself again.
Bish gets drawn into the investigation of the bombing courtesy of a former school friend, Elliot, who now works for the shadowy “Home Office”. Bish is sent running all over the countryside at Elliot’s beck and call as two students from the tour- Violette and Eddie- go missing. Violette’s mother, Noor, is in prison for a bombing years before and Bish put her there. Now it is a race against time to find Violette and Eddie to determine if they had anything to do with the bus disaster, and also to protect them in case they didn’t and were in fact the intended victims of a revenge plot. Bish’s relationship with daughter Bee becomes inextricably linked to his search for Violette and Eddie – a quest for redemption.
Twists and turns abound. Marchetta certainly knows how to push a story along, and while Bish, his mother Saffron, and Noor are the central adult characters I found the teenagers in the novel were the characters who really drove the plot. Everything that happens in the book depends on what the kids do or don’t do. What they say or don’t say. This is the genius of this story. No matter what, all the young people are where the plot pivots into new directions. And these kids are smart, resourceful and more self-aware than most of the adults, which is really refreshing too. I don’t want to say too much more because half the joy of this book is the careful and meticulous unfolding of the narrative and I have an anti-spoiler policy. I will say that this is a fantastic new direction for Marchetta, which will open her writing up for a whole new audience, as well as amply satisfying her existing fans. I’m actually kinda jealous.
For ages 15 and up

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