You are probably well aware by now that Melina Marchetta is one of my favourite YA Australian writers. Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is her first adult novel that would be best described as crime fiction. I have to admit, I was hesitant picking this one up only because I love her other books and wasn’t sure if I would love her adult work as much. I’m happy to say, boy was I worried for nothing and thank you for writers week for pushing it to the top of my reading pile. Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is told from the perspective of Bish Ortley, a somewhat washed up, troubled inspector who is has to leap into action when his daughter is caught up in a bomb attack while on camp if France. Coincidentally on the same trip is Violette Lebrac. Violette, while raised in Australia, has a mother in an English prison after she was connected to a bomb attack in London and she promptly disappears after the school attack. Bish is now in a race to ensure his daughters safety, find the missing Violette and try and discover what really happened not only in the present but all those years ago while navigating the circus that is media coverage in our society.
In all honesty, I could not put this book down and finished the whole thing in one day. The mystery has the reader on the edge of their seat, jumping from conclusion to conclusion its each new chapter. The plot is quite intricate and I was more than impressed with how the pieces all fit together in the end. Marchetta has the right balance of reality and sentimentality all the while making a strong statement that is culturally relevant. Islamophobia and terrorist attacks are growing issue today, with people buying into these stereotypes and creating their own narratives in the media. Popular media is quick to point the finger at Islam or even people of a certain background, no matter how tenuous these links may be and Marchetta debunks these stereotypes in a flawless manner. Her points are strong, yet subtle, and really get the reader thinking. An important message for the readers of today.
As always Marchetti’s strength in my opinion lies in her characters. In every novel of hers I read I always find the characters unique, endearing and very memorable. This novel is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, the sheer volume of characters in the novel is quite large for a book of it’s size (compared to say, fantasy series that take place over a much longer time point) however each character was distinct in my mind from the very beginning and I had no trouble keeping up with them across the story. My absolute favourite was Noor, Violette’s mother. She was intelligent, confident and strong in her convictions. We need more characters like Noor (and the rest of her family) in popular fiction, particularly people of backgrounds that are associated with such negativity. The others are all so memorable and for me to go on about each one would make this review waaaaay too long.
Marchetta states that the audience that she writers for is herself and I think this is quite clear. She has a lot of love and respect for her characters and as a result I react to them in that way too. Her transition from YA writer to an adult novel was flawless, in my opinion, and I look forward to many more novels in the future. I give Tell The Truth, Same The Devil four buses, where the whole drama began.