Well, guys, she did it again. I don’t know why I’m surprised by this, but Melina Marchetta, authoress extraordinaire, did it again with her thriller Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil.
Now, this isn’t so much a comprehensive review as it is a ringing, clanging, raucous endorsement. Yes, Melina Marchetta is my favorite author, bar none, and yes, it is difficult to be objective, but in the face of overwhelming talent, you’ve got to, well, shame the devil.
Even though this book is a departure genre-wise from her other contemporary YA or fantasy fare, Melina Marchetta remains the undisputed queen at writing relatable, complex, and diverse characters. Her ability to make you care so fiercely about an enormous host of deftly written, layered characters is as impressive as it is rare.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Bish Ortley is the middle-aged main protagonist, but the story is so much more than just his. There are multiple POV chapters from other people that invite the reader into a complex web of relationships, love, and fierce loyalty. You get to know Bish through everyone else in the story, and in the process, you fall in love with him and countless others.
In addition to a wonderfully layered plot, you are treated to a shining empathy toward refugees and a condemnation against those who hate them. This championing of refugees and bold anti-xenophobia is a staple of Marchetta’s work, and it is at its peak here. In other hands, this story wouldn’t have even bothered to tell the reader of migrant and refugee plights, much less condemn Islamophobia in a post-9/11 world; and yet, in Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, you have no choice but to confront and challenge what may be your own prejudices reflected in these pages.
I won’t give anything more away here, so I’ll just say that I would love more from this world and that Melina Marchetta should keep writing whatever genre she damn well pleases since she clearly can do no wrong.