The Source by Sarah Sultoon

From the PR: “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 TV 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 sex 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. A tense, startling and unforgettable thriller, The Source is a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience.”

Where to start when talking about The Source? I think it’s safe to start with just how different a novel this turned out to be compared to what I was expecting after the first chapter.

The Source gets off to one hell of a beginning with an investigative news team getting the inside line on the child sex trade (it’s not a novel for the faint at heart), a dramatic game of cat and mouse and escape that had me thinking I knew where this was going.

And then it changed tact and, I’ll be honest I was starting to wonder where the novel was going to take us but then… then there’s a precise moment – and I don’t want to give away what that is for risk of spoiling the story – at which the penny drops on where the Carly story line is going which just so happens to coincide with the tempo in the Marie narrative switching up a gear, and then this book doesn’t let go. It’s a massively compelling read and it really is a case of not wanting to miss a moment and see how the two narratives collide.

Sarah Sultoon has written an intricately plotted and unflinching novel that manages the not so mean feat of tackling hugely sensitive and shocking subject matter (grooming, abuse of power and neglect) and still delivering a novel that’s addictive and full of heart. A bloody fine read.

You know this is fiction and yet you also know that there are far too many instances in which it mirrors events that happened and the author is able to carefully portray these without going to far, expertly walking that thin line of leading us to it without actually showing us the events – skilfully pulling emotions from the reader without exploitation. it makes it unbelievably affecting and powerful.

The characters are what will make or break a story that tackles such a barrel of gunpowder like subject and with The Source Sarah Sultoon has given us a great set of characters – each with their own set of revelations and watching as they navigate the perilous turns of The Source is what makes it so compelling as it throws them and the reader through the emotional wringer. And it is a real gamut run of emotions, from frustrated anger to gut-punch ‘oh no’ moments, set against a plot line that’s equally edge of seat reading.

A stunning debut that pulls no punches and succeeds on my levels, The Source is a great read. My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my copy of The Source and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

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