Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Friday, September 23, 2016
Title: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 407
Published: expected October 11 2016
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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.

This is a tough one; I have been thinking about my review on this novel for weeks. I wanted to love this book so badly -- the Marchetta hallmark of excellent characters helps -- but ultimately (a bit like its title), Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil was just a bit too long, too convoluted, and a bit too overwrought for me to love. I did like it enough to finish, but that was mainly due to the strength of the characterization and my love for the author. 

This is Marchetta's first novel for adults and also her first thriller. And while I do think there's a great story at the center of Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil it just takes a seemingly interminable amount of time to get to it. There are a lot of characters and backstory and history to unfurl and unravel and while it's all being done with a lot of care and reason, it slow the pace down to a crawl. Add in a plot that was destined to more covert than overt with more than few iffy twists and turns, and it makes a lot of those 400 pages slow-going.

The saving grace of TtT,StD is found in its many characters. From sneaky teens to weary adults to mysterious grandmas, there are so many different kinds of people to be found in its pages. Marchetta's YA's have long been favorites because she understood teenagers so well and could then write them realistically and with empathy; that talent is displayed here, but also with older protagonists and narrators. 

There may have been a little to much set up, a few too many but well-drawn characters in Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil but it still is a readable thriller. I liked it while still freely admitting it is my least favorite Marchetta novel.

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