Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil

Melina Marchetta

Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil
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Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil

Melina Marchetta

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

With its cast of unforgettable characters, social insight and wry wit, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is an irresistible novel about human identity, lost children and the nature of real love.

Review

Like many readers, I’ve adored Melina Marchetta since my English teacher issued Looking for Alibrandi as a Year 11 text and we all gleefully discussed it in class since all of us actually happily read it instead of reading the study guide and bluffing our way through exams. Here, Marchetta has written her first novel for adults, and it’s a crime book – and nothing could have prevented me from enjoying it.

Beginning near Calais, where a bus full of international students has been bombed, it follows British ex-Chief Inspector Bish Ortley as he rushes headlong into Calais, in mortal fear for the daughter, Bee, who was on that bus, even as he is still burning from grief over the death of his son. Bee turns up – mostly fine, apart from what she has seen – but Bish realises another name on that bus is familiar.

Violette LeBrac, sullen teenager and bomb survivor, is seventeen years old, and thirteen years ago her extended family was arrested for its part in a supermarket bombing that killed twenty-three people. Thirteen years ago, Bish was the one who took Violette from her mother Noor’s desperate arms and placed her in care as Noor was jailed for life. The media immediately latches onto Violette and her family history, even though she’s been living peacefully in Australia for years, but before anyone can prove anything, Violette and another student vanish. Bish is struggling enough with his own daughter when suddenly he has another teenager to worry about – but the deeper he delves into Violette’s whereabouts, the more he realises that, even back then, his assumptions were clouded by judgement.

As the media and the public become more and more frenzied with sightings of Violette, even to the point of people engaging in violent acts towards anyone who looks remotely suspicious, Bish searches further for the truth – of what happened thirteen years ago; of what kind of father, husband and police officer he became after his son’s death; and of what happened to get a bomb onto a bus of schoolkids. Marchetta is a wonderful storyteller, with every interaction important, thrilling, enjoyable or all of the above, and every character gifted with such an honest, gloriously vivid life of their own that reading the whole thing in a searing rush of pages in one sitting is irresistible.


Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at readingkills.com and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.

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