Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
by Melina Marchetta

Summary: 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. 
My thoughts on this book are complicated. So let's start with my final rating before getting to the rest of it: I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Melina Marchetta is one of my favourite authors, I've read all 8 of her other books and loved them all (6 of them I'd consider all time favourites). This one was the 9th and it was very different from any of her others -- different genre, different setting, different type of main character. I didn't love it as much as her previous books, but by the end I did love it.

In the beginning, I was hooked. That breathless kind of hooked where it felt like there was this weight on my chest because the subject matter was so heavy and I needed to see where it was heading. That feeling steadily lessened the deeper into the story I got until it left me with that same feeling I always get after reading a Melina Marchetta book -- like these characters had wormed their way under my skin bit by bit until I couldn't help but care about them and feel thoroughly invested in their happiness -- like they had carved out a little piece of my heart and made themselves at home there.

The wasn't her best. Her writing is consistently lovely and she always excels at characters, she makes them feel so real and the way she writes relationships, evolving them and tangling lives together so beautifully...those are always her strongest points and this one was no exception.

But, usually the plot is still really good even if it's not on the same level as her characterization. Unfortunately, in this one the plot felt quite average. It wasn't bad, far from it, but it dragged a lot and got quite repetitive in the middle, and it required a lot of suspension of disbelief. Given the genre of this one (mystery/crime), it felt like it should've been a bit more plot driven than her other novels (which are either contemporary or high fantasy and can still work really well when they're more character driven).

Also, it should be noted: the plot does revolve around a terror attack. Or rather, two terror attacks set years apart. Meaning there's a lot of focus on racial profiling and the negative treatment of Muslims whenever attacks like that happen, from the public, law enforcement, and the press.

The book is not own voices. It didn't come across as disrespectful or offensive* to me, quite the opposite really (aside from maybe one little comment in the beginning about a character name), but as I'm a white person from Scotland and I'm not Muslim, there could be things that just don't register with me because I've never had to live it. I'm not an authority on whether it's good representation or not, is what I'm getting at.

So...I guess that's all. Great characters, kind of weak plot but still good in spite of that. It's not her best book but still very good. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5. I'm not sure it's one I would recommend to people because, as I said, I don't know if it's good representation and I wouldn't want to recommend something to someone that could be perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Muslims.

*although, the very fact that it's a story with Muslim characters that had terrorism be a big part of the plot may be a bit of a problem, especially as it's not own voices? I don't know. But, while the plot does hinge on terrorism, I think the heart of the story is family (as I said above, it's more character driven) and the Muslim characters are more victims of terrorism (in multiple ways) in the story than perpetrators and come across most sympathetically.

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