Review: ‘Tattletale’ by Sarah J Naughton (@SarahJNaughton, @TrapezeBooks) #London

32455458The Official Book Blurb

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed in fairytales. Now she is out to get your happy ending.

One day changes Jody’s life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags’ life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiance Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind.

But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

When Mags receives a telephone call to tell her that her estranged brother Abe is seriously ill in hospital following an accident, she drops everything to fly home from Las Vegas to be with him. When she arrives at the hospital she is shocked by the condition he is in, but more so by the woman she meets at his bedside – Abe’s fiance, Jody. Having shared nothing but a few Christmas cards with Abe since she left home at sixteen, Mags knew nothing about the woman in front of her, a woman she now has to accept as almost a part of her family.

Jody is a timid woman, her love for Abe so very clear and her devastation at his injuries beyond doubt. Abe had been her saviour, a man who had given her respite from her fears and who had saved her life both metaphorically and literally. 

As Mags tries hard to avoid the reality of her brother’s condition, frustrated that as his next of kin the decisions over his care will be hers to make, she begins to wonder just how the accident occurred. The accident happened in Abe’s apartment block, a former church where acoustics mean that every tiny knock can be heard throughout the building, how can it be that not one person saw or heard anything?

The more she tries to find the truth about that fateful night, the more questions she is faced with and soon she begins to realise that Abe’s accident is not as clear cut as people would have her believe.

From the very opening chapter I was sucked into this book. We join the action immediately following Abe’s accident and the description of the scene, of Jody’s slow dawning realisation of what has happened is very striking and feels real. All the small elements are here, the patterns and images of the blood, the way each landing extinguishes, floor by floor by floor, and it builds brilliantly to a point of final understanding that leaves you breathless before you’ve really even begun.

From here, the pace slows a little. We are given an almost rude introduction to Mags, to her impatience and confidence, so valuable to her as a top lawyer in Vegas, but so out of place when dealing with a grieving fiance and hospital staff who want nothing more tan to treat her brother. We can see from the off she is a polar opposite to Jody, and as the story progresses, that her character couldn’t be further from the picture that everyone painted of Abe. But what made her this way? It is clear something happened to the pair in their childhood, but not what. Mags is a prickly character, but her inquiring mind won’t settle and her tenacity, her determination to find the truth is something which endeared her to me, even is she was lacking in many other social graces. She is closed off to almost everyone so it would be easy to not like her, but Naughton has written Mags really well so that it is her strength of character which makes her likeable.

Jody is a very complex character. She clearly has issues, but then this is no surprise given that she is living in an apartment block which caters for people with special situations, such as former addicts, care home children and the like. She is a gentle, highly emotional soul, quiet and unassuming, a contrast to Mags’ more direct character. She immediately feels likeable and yet a little on the pathetic side. Her devotion to Abe is clear, very romantic. It is almost a fairy tale kind of world that she lives in. And yet she is not as simple as she seems either, her true character every bit as layered as that of Mags.

Told mainly from both Mags and Jody’s perspectives, there are also some chapters set in the past which give insight into the characters’ early lives, and also some from the point of view of one of Jody and Abe’s neighbours. The voices are all distinct and the story pacy enough to stand all of these different perspectives. This kind of narrative could easily become disjointed and jarring but instead it flows seamlessly between them all and I felt as though it also helped to speed the story up at times when it perhaps threatened to lag. When it comes to the segments set in the past, while mostly not gratuitous, the implications of what is about to happen, or what has happened is clear enough to create a feeling of horror in the reader without having to ever spell it out. There is only one scene in which the reader is put in the heart of the action so to speak, and it is hard to read, but it is necessary in order for you to fully understand what it is that has happened and why.

I will admit that there was one point where I kind of wondered how the scene fit in with the rest of the book, what the significance was. As I read on I became so embroiled in the story of Mags, Jody and Abe that I almost forgot it had happened at all, so much so that when it was brought back into focus later in the book I was stunned and left wondering how I had failed to put things together sooner. But then this is the beauty of this book. Nothing is ever quite as it seems and everybody has the capacity to surprise. There was one revelation which I saw coming from a mile off, but it did not change how I felt about the book. Although I had guessed that part, I had incorrectly inferred the implications of it and when the truth is finally revealed. Well. Wow.

The whole atmosphere of the book, the setting within the former church, the deprived location amongst boarded up shops, in neighbourhoods rife with young gangs and the oppressive chill of a dark winter, all add to the creeping feeling of the text. It is beautifully dark, even the lighting in the hallways of the church are set on timers, plunging the characters into the same darkness that the reader can feel building throughout the text. There are moments of lightness, of hope. They are few but they are enough to give a little lift when you feel the darkness may well consume everything.

There are so many unreliable characters throughout, so many secrets, I was left wondering who, if anyone, to trust. As a reader I felt outrage, sympathy, horror, repulsion and sadness. This is a psychological thriller with a twist, and a very twisted heart. This story is what happens when two people from very broken beginnings are brought together. This story is what happens when fear eclipses the need for justice and fairness, when the strong and arrogant prey upon the weak. This book is one which deserves every bit of praise it is undoubtedly going to get.

A twisted and dark 5 stars.

5

My thanks for publishers Trapeze and NetGalley for the ARC of ‘Tattletale’. It is available for pre order at the following sites:

Amazon UK

Kobo

Amazon.com

5 thoughts on “Review: ‘Tattletale’ by Sarah J Naughton (@SarahJNaughton, @TrapezeBooks) #London

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