I love unusual settings in books and this one was stunning. Set in a renovated church which has been altered and now houses vulnerable or adults in need, the stained glass windows divided between flats giving different colours depending which part of the building you are in. Jody lives in a flat in the building as did Abe, the young man who has been found in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs. Now in a coma, his next of kin Mags (Mary Magdalene) has been summoned back from her job as a lawyer in Vegas to the UK as she is his next of kin. Mags and Abe are not close and Mags doesn’t endear herself to the nurses caring for Abe or Jodie, in large part due to her remoteness to Abe.
This is a cleverly layered psychological thriller which demands careful attention. The main mystery is was Abe, as the police believe, suicidal? Or was he pushed over the bannisters? Jody doesn’t believe her boyfriend would leave her, they’d just returned from a night out and he was checking the door was closed properly against intruders, he had no reason to kill himself.
Mags doesn’t know what to think. She didn’t know Abe but it is clear early on that the two shared a difficult childhood where the rule of divide and conquer meant the two were locked in a life of self-preservation. The obvious consequence being was that if the other was the focus of the negative attention, all the better. What happened in their early life is slowly revealed over the course of the book giving a rich background to both characters. All the more important as we only view Abe through the eyes of those around him.
Jody comes across as a fairly passive character, her devotion to Abe unstinting and she is willing Abe to recover although the prognosis is, at best, bleak but she is also damaged by her past and to boot has received a caution for falsely crying rape. What the truth of Jody’s past is another mystery.
There are some really tough scenes to read in this book and although they are integral to the plot, it does make for difficult reading at times. On balance although we hear from both Jody and Mags in depth with some excerpts which I initially attributed to completely the wrong character, this is a plot led book. The rights and wrongs of the way this plot develops giving the reader an opportunity to question the morals of the tale, which for me overshadowed to a large extent, the characters that are behind it. While I felt sympathy for the damaged inhabitants of the church building, I also felt distanced from them, this is in part due to the problem with unreliable narrators, whether that unreliability is understandable or not!
This doesn’t have the fast pace of some psychological thrillers and I did find it took me a while to ‘place’ the characters in the early part of the book until their individual voices developed. While the narration of the other inhabitants of the church adding their details to those of Jody and Mags builds to give a fuller picture of the critical moments in the plot, for a while it just felt as if the story was becoming ever more murky, but full credit to the author, the pulling together of these stories was exceptionally well done. Sarah J Naughton has produced a psychological thriller with a unique feel.
I’d like to thank the publishers Orion, for allowing me to read a copy of Tattletale, the first book for adults by Sarah J Naughton, ahead of publication on 23 March 2017.