Review Blog

Sep 22 2016

Tell the truth, shame the devil by Melina Marchetta

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Viking, 2016. ISBN 9780670079100
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Mystery. Marchetta's outstanding ability as an author stands out in this engrossing and at times, heart wrenching story. Chief Inspector Bish Ortley has been suspended from the London Met, and still grieving from the death of his son and the divorce from his wife. Drinking heavily hasn't helped, and then he finds out that his daughter on a student trip to France has been on a bus that was bombed. Desperate to find out what has happened, Bish races across the Channel and although his daughter Bee is safe, it turns out that Violette LeBrac, the granddaughter of a man who bombed a London supermarket, was on board. Bish had been involved in the arrest of her mother, Noor LeBrac. As he begins to investigate the bombing, Violette and another boy, Eddie disappear, and Bish begins to uncover the truth about what had happened in the past.
Bish is a compelling character who immediately gains the sympathy of the reader as he tries to cope with his ex-wife's pregnancy and new husband and a cantankerous teenage daughter while traumatised by his son's drowning. He has the knack of being able to get people to confide in him and gradually as he talks to the teens from the bus and their parents, a picture of what has happened begins to emerge. His investigative skills are put to the test as he navigates through a foreign language (French) and the social media that the students on the bus have used to communicate what has happened. The teens' different characters come alive on the page, with all the angst, that comes with coping with hormones and difficult family backgrounds. Violette is particularly compelling as she confronts what has happened in the past and Bee's efforts to come to grips with her brother's death and parents' divorce provide a deeper background to the reader coming to understand Bish.
The multicultural nature of Europe provides the setting for the novel. The racism that faces anyone who has a Middle Eastern background and the treatment that the LeBrac family has been given is an integral part of the story and is so realistic as to what is happening in our modern society. Marchetta's writing makes the reader ponder what tolerance and justice, right and wrong, is all about as Bish follows the trail of Violetta and Eddie, while overturning what had been considered the truth in the past.
An outstanding crime novel, Tell the truth, shame the devil will appeal to adults, but is sure to resonate with older teens as well.
Pat Pledger

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