Book reviews

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Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is by Australian author Melina Marchetta, who wrote Looking for Alibrandi. Honey-Bunny studied (and loved) Looking for Alibrandi in High School.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil follows Chief Inspector Bish Ortley’s unofficial investigation into the bombing of a school holiday tour bus in France where a number of children were hurt and killed. Bish’s teenage daughter Bee was on the bus and was miraculously unharmed.

Although Bish was on suspension from work after sticking a gun down the throat of a colleague who annoyed him, he was pushed to continue his investigations by the British Home Office after it became known that one of the teenagers on the bus was Violette LeBrac. Violette was the granddaughter of notorious suicide bomber Louis Saraf who killed dozens of people in an attack on a London supermarket. Violette’s mother, Noor LeBrac is serving a life sentence in jail for her role in the supermarket bombing, and Violette’s father is dead, having suicided when Violette was four.

Bish’s connection with Violette and her mother, was that he was the officer who took four-year old Violette from her mother when she went to jail. Violette was raised by her Australian grandparents but snuck off to Europe without their knowledge to tour Normandy. Bish has to gain the trust of Noor to find Violette and another boy who was on the bus, Eddie, after they go on the run after the bombing.

Bish is facing his own demons. He and his wife divorced after their son died and his wife is now married and pregnant to their son’s school principal. Bish drinks too much and has abandonment issues with his own mother, who gracefully swans in and out of the story.

None of the relationships in this book are straightforward, although the characters have a lot in common and their lives are woven together in more ways than I could have imagined.

There were so many mysteries in this book. Why was the bus bombed? Why was Noor, an intelligent, beautiful woman, involved in her father’s madness in bombing the supermarket thirteen years ago? Was Violette the present-day bomb’s target or was she the bomber? What was Violette’s relationship with Eddie? Indeed, what was Violette’s relationship with Bish’s daughter, Bee, or any number of other characters?

Race and religion and as a result, racism, is a key element of this story. The most important characters tell their family stories to each other in a way that made my heart hurt.

The love the characters had for each other despite their difficulties were at times overwhelming (especially for someone who sometimes cries when she is reading on the train). I also laughed out loud once or twice watching the teenager characters communicate using social media under the noses of the adults, and felt like an old fogey as I realised I would have had no idea what was going on either.

A small criticism was that there are so many characters and their relationships so complicated that occasionally I lost track of how they all fit in to the story.

Otherwise, I loved Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil.

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