Review: Tell the truth, shame the devil

 

The day I finish a book written by Melina Marchetta and don’t yell “Holy fuck, this is the best book I have ever read in my whole entire life!!!”, is the day you all will know that something’s wrong. Because “Tell the truth, shame the devil” is – dare I say- even better than “On the Jellicoe Road”.

Bashir “Bish” Ortley is a London desk cop. Almost over it. Still not dealing with the death of his son years ago, as well as the break-up of his marriage.

Across the channel, a summer bus tour, carrying a group of English teenagers is subject to a deadly bomb attack, killing four of the passengers and injuring a handful of others. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

The suspect is 17 year old Violette LeBrac whose grandfather was responsible for a bombing that claimed the lives of dozens of people fourteen years ago; and whose mother, Noor, has been serving a life sentence for the part she was supposed to have played in the attack.

As Bish is dragged into the search for the missing Violette, he finds himself reluctantly working with Noor LeBrac and her younger brother, Jimmy Sarraf.

And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more Bish realizes that they may have got it wrong all those years ago, and that truth wears many colours. Especially when it comes to the teenagers on board the recent bus bombing. Including his daughter.

Tell the truth. Shame the devil. Bish can’t get Violette LeBrac’s words out of his head. But what he may get is some sort of peace with his own past as the worlds of those involved in two bombings, years apart, collide into the journey of his life.

As it is obvious from the book’s summary, Marchetta’s latest novel deals heavily with crucial issues of today’s society, like terrorism, islamophobia and racism. And it does so wonderfully, with a finesse and a careful, respectful approach, as only a craftsman of depicting the human psyche like Marchetta could deliver.

If you picked this one up because you love mysteries and thrillers, you may be slightly disappointed. It’s a bit slower than your average mystery and it doesn’t even come close to the haunting mysteries of Scandinavian writters. What it lacks in mystery, it makes up for in its in-depth analysis of the human nature and behavior, so you’ll probably find yourself caught up in her wonderfully woven world. If you picked it up, however, because you – as myself- are a fan of Marchetta, you are bound to love it.

The most intriguing, most compelling part of the novel is its characters. Every single one of them has a unique voice, personality traits that separate them not just from one another but also from every other book character. The relationships and dynamics that develop between the characters, especially the love and loyalty between the Sarrafs and the LeBracs and the Bayats, is outstanding. The sheer power of their love made me tear up in so many occasions, I lost count.I felt for them, I wanted them to be happy, I wanted to go back in time and protect them from all the horrors of the world.

Another part that makes this book stand out is its diversity. Most of its main characters come from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon or Algeria, some of them are Muslims, not to mention that there’s a sapphic romance. Islamophobia, racism and terrorism may be the key themes of the book, but Marchetta also deals with r*pe, unfair imprisonment and inhumane conditions, loss, alcoholism, divorce and dealing with a disability- all that in just 400 pages. And after a year when the lack of diversity has been thoroughly discussed, it felt great to finally read a book that not only mentions Arabs and Middle-Easterners, but actually puts them- and their unfair treatment- in the spotlight.

 

**A digital ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**

 

 

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