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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a compelling and challenging new story from the award-winning Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road, and other titles. It’s published as an adult novel, and is reviewed here for its interest to parents, teachers and librarians, as well as older, more mature teenage readers.


As Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil opens, a bomb goes off at a campsite near Calais, in France, and there are fatalities. Bish Ortley’s daughter, Bee, is one of a group of British teenagers caught up in the tragedy.

On Bee’s bus is seventeen-year-old Violette, whose mother was jailed for life after confessing to participating in a bombing in Britain years before. Violette had been living in Australia and was meant to be bushwalking in Tasmania. Was the current bombing terrorism, payback or something else?

With a connection to the case involving Violette’s mother, and an old school friend who says he works for the Home Secretary asking for favours, Bish, short for Bashir, is drawn into the investigation and the story slowly unfolds as Violette and another passenger, thirteen-year-old Eddie, go missing.

Bish, a police inspector currently on suspension, is dealing with his mother, pregnant ex-wife and a non-communicative daughter, while still mourning the loss of his young son. None of that makes it easy to find out what’s going on. Nor does Violette’s mother, Noor Le Brac, when he visits her in prison. Did they get it right when they put her away thirteen years ago?

The media and social media circus that follow the incident in Calais are not helpful either, although the social media accounts of the teenagers on the bombed bus include photos that might just contain clues. Bish also gets somewhat grudging help, and respect, from French Police Capitaine Attal who also had a daughter, Marianne, caught up in the bombing.

What is the truth of the past and present events? Each of the characters have been damaged by their experiences, which are reflected in their current attitudes and assumptions. Family history, prejudices, and politics all play a part as Bish uncovers a web of complicated relationships and secrets, leading to an unexpected resolution.

Melina Marchetta doesn’t pull any punches in this story about life and death, truth and lies. You may be confronted by it, but I would venture to say that is probably intentional. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil has moments of horror and moments of heart-wrenching sadness. It also has hope. I thoroughly recommend reading it.

Title: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Viking, $32.99
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780670079100
For ages: 16+ years
Type: Adult Fiction

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