• Jon

He Said/She Said: Melina Marchetta’s TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL

Say the name Melina Marchetta and the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is her young adult novel Looking for Alibrandi. An instant Australian modern classic, Looking for Alibrandi, was embraced by teens, librarians, booksellers and teachers alike. At a time when books for teenagers were scarce, Melina Marchetta threw herself (and the reader) into the teenage world and faced head-on the troubles and emotions of growing up. Looking for Alibrandi was honest and unflinching and it paved the way for the booming young adult book market as it stands today.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is Melina Marchetta’s debut adult novel – and she doesn’t disappoint!

Bish Ortley, Chief Inspector of the London MET, has been stood down from his job. Grieving for his dead son, his failed marriage and his strained relationship with his daughter, Bish is doing the only thing he can – drinking himself into oblivion.

Then a bus carrying a group of British kids on a tour of Normandy gets blown up with Bish’s daughter, Bee, on board. Racing to the scene Bish is only concerned with his daughter’s welfare until he finds out that Violette LeBrac was also on the bus. A little over thirteen years prior Violette’s grandfather had blown up a supermarket killing 23 people. Violette’s mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence for the part she played in the tragedy. Bish had been involved in the case. The information has everyone on both sides of the Channel scrambling. The media and general public are already convicting Violette of being the bomber and when she and a younger boy who was also on the tour disappear Bish reluctantly becomes drawn into the French and British investigations.

In the chaos and drama that ensues Bish unwittingly becomes the person everyone turns to for reassurance and he soon finds himself the intermediary between the French police, British intelligence, the parents of the victims and the children themselves. As the traditional media and social media explode with anti-muslim sentiment and the general public are whipped into a frenzy, Bish is forced to go back to where it all began and reexamine what happened to Violette’s family 13 years earlier.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a powerhouse of tension and emotion where what is not being said is as poignant as what is being said. Melina Marchetta’s genius is her ability to place the reader into a situation that is so readily believable. She taps into our fears of terrorism and heightens the tension by making the victims children. The anti-muslim sentiment could be taken straight from any news outlet. She explores the uses, abuses and dangers of social media and society’s eagerness towards trial-by-media all with the clarity and honesty she is so well-known for. This novel will make you at times angry, frustrated and heart-broken but it will ultimately leave you with a sense of hope.

With Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil Melina Marchetta has made a seemless transition from YA author to crime author and I will be eagerly awaiting her next offering.


I have to confess to some reticence in picking this book up. I hadn’t read Melina Marchetta in years (since Saving Francesca in fact) and even though Looking For Alibrandi was one of the best books I had to read at school I had some reluctance picking up her first novel for adults. But after Kate started reading and RAVING about it it was next on my pile and I was instantly hooked. This isn’t just a good thriller, this is a top class thriller easily equal to the great stuff Michael Robotham writes.

The novel opens with a bang and doesn’t look back. DCI Bashir ‘Bish’ Ortley’s life is slowly falling apart. He still grieves for the son he lost in a drowning accident. His marriage, already on rocky ground, didn’t survive the tragedy and his relationship with his teenage daughter Bee is on tenterhooks. He’s been hitting the bottle to get through each day but that has resulted in his suspension from The Met on disciplinary grounds. Everything is put to the test though when a bomb goes off on a tourist bus in Northern France.

His daughter is on the bus and Bish immediately races to the scene. He soon becomes the liaison between other frantic parents, the French police and British officials. Bish is relieved to discover that his daughter is unharmed but that cannot be said for others onboard the bus. When he discovers that also on the bus is the daughter of a bombing suspect he locked up thirteen years ago his, and others’, suspicions are raised. When she disappears soon afterwards those suspicions seemed confirmed by her actions. Bish has his doubts though and his search for the missing girl not only reopens old wounds but may also reopen an old case.

Marchetta unfolds this thriller with the skill of a veteran crime writer. I especially like the way she explores the role social media plays not just on people’s quick judgements of guilt but also in reconstructing the timeline of the events leading up to the bombing. Marchetta puts this up against the role of the traditional media in the earlier case showing how the media’s rush to judgment, both old and new, then and now, haven’t changed that much and that guilt and innocence are blurred and lost very easily with devastating consequences.

I could not put this book down and I hope it is not the last we are going to see of DCI Bish Ortley, a fantastic new character to add the crime genre by a writer we knew from growing up was something special who can no-show off that skill to a whole new audience both here and around the world..

Buy In Store

Buy Online

ISBN: 9780670079100 ISBN-10: 0670079103 Classification: Fiction & related items » Crime & mystery Format: Paperback (235mm x 157mm x 34mm) Pages: 416 Imprint: Viking Australia Publisher: Penguin Books Australia Publish Date: 29-Aug-2016 Country of Publication: Australia

#bishortley #bookreview #books #tellthetruthshamethedevil

Join my mailing list

© 2023 by The Book Lover. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • White Instagram Icon