It is my turn on the blog tour for this daring debut novel, which may be a quick read but it certainly leaves its mark. As soon as I read the synopsis it piqued my interest, so I was delighted to earn a place on the tour. Thank you to Anne Cater for that particular honour, and also to Orenda Books for facilitating my free electronic copy.
Published: 15th February 2021
Genre: Crime thriller
Trigger warnings: Child sexual abuse/exploitation, drugs, alcoholism, human trafficking
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior television newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth… and justice.
This is a dark and impactful book that confronts the most horrifying of topics with the utmost conviction. Told over the course of two separate timelines where the stakes get increasingly higher and characters come out fighting against extreme adversity, there is a sense of purpose about it from start to finish as a fast paced yet sinister plot steadily unfolds.
The subject of child sexual abuse and exploitation runs right through the very heart of the story, and it is approached in a very mature and sophisticated way. There are no detailed descriptions – these were unnecessary and would only have made it more uncomfortable to digest. Instead, the author adopts an extremely effective technique of presenting a wider narrative that still leaves the reader in absolutely no doubt as to what happened.
Everything is written in the first person from the perspectives of the two main characters, Carly and Marie, set in 1996 and 2006 respectively. I really connected with Carly’s chapters as her story is so heartbreaking and she finds herself with almost nowhere to turn in the face of an impossible situation. Marie’s chapters bring a much different dynamic as they take place within the hustle and bustle of a press investigation, but she is equally troubled and the tone is just as menacing.
There are one or two moments where the plot unexpectedly jumps forward in time, but it is simple enough to follow even if the ins and outs of Operation Andromeda are not made abundantly clear. The author’s background and knowledge of journalism is evident as it plays a prominent part in the book, and we get to see a lot of the office politics that come with it. It is presented as a highly pressurised environment which is typified by the character of Dominic; he is sometimes abrasive but has a strong sense of justice.
While the twist that takes place just over halfway through was easy to see coming, it did not make the story any less powerful and it is only towards the end that the full picture and the scale of the conspiracy truly emerges. The one aspect I struggled with was the writing style and the storytelling, it just failed to hold my attention at times and perhaps I was expecting a bit more of a thriller. However, that is solely down to my personal preferences and many other readers will undoubtedly find it captivating.
Overall, it is a challenging and stirring novel with a chilling air of realism lying amid its underlying complexity. The two main characters carry the story and its themes very well and regardless of the fact the writing style was not always to my liking, it most definitely leaves its mark.
Sarah Sultoon is a multi-award winning journalist who in a long career as an international news executive at CNN covered conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. For the latter, she won an Emmy in 2015.
Having recently completed a Masters of Studies at Cambridge University – one of numerous degrees she now holds – she turned her hand to writing. The Source is her debut novel.