Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for The Guilty Party, the very latest psychological thriller from author Mel McGrath. Thank you to publisher HQ who provided the advance copy of the book for this review. Here is what the book is all about:
The Bookish Bits
You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.
On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.
Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.
But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible?
And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?
When I listened to Give Me the Child a little over a year ago, I fell in love with Mel McGrath’s writing style, the way in which she was able to develop characters who both fascinated and repulsed, and the way in which her she really drew me into the story, a complex and multi-layered tale in which you were never quite sure which was was up. So when I got the chance for an early read of this latest novel, The Guilty Party, I jumped at it, and boy am I glad I did.
Now, I won’t lie. There are elements of this book that will leave you feeling very uncomfortable, and with a theme that examines the idea of control, both that lost through peer pressure and through more dubious means, you may well find, as I did, that you struggle to find any redeeming qualities amongst most, if not all, of the characters. But the story is one that is still important, addressing issues which are far too prevalent in current culture and forcing the reader to take a long hard look at themselves and ask the question – what would you do if you saw someone in trouble? Would you help them or would you walk away? And if you turned away, could you live with the guilt?
Now turn away is exactly what this particular group of friends did, although we don’t know why, not for a long while. Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex are four very complex characters, friends from University who seem to be held together by connections from the past, perhaps even habit, rather than a deep seated friendship. Yes, at one stage there were romantic entanglements and, despite how things have changed, they are hard to step away from, but the more you read, the more you realise how different they are, and how ill-fated their friendship seems to be.
The story opens with Cassie setting the scene, describing the pivotal event that would be the beginning of the end. From here we are taken on a journey as the group decant to a cottage in Weymouth for a long weekend of celebration, one in which many secrets are revealed, along with the true nature of some of the group members. I don’t really want to say much more than that as I think the real beauty in this book is in reading it and peeling back all the layers for yourself. But what I will say is that this trip is about as far from the joyous party atmosphere the friends were hoping for as you could get, and for one or more of them it could well prove deadly.
I love the way in which the atmosphere has been built in this book. From the tension ridden opening chapter that left me reeling and feeling almost sick to my stomach, we are taken to an almost quaint tranquil setting. But that which, at first, appears rustic, quaint even, is hiding a layer of rot, one which echoes the rot which has set into the friendship. The setting has been used to great effect, such stark imagery used to infuse the story with the bleak nature of the surroundings. It captures perfectly the sense of isolation that the characters feel, especially Cassie, in turn showing the readers the true essence of the story. From the very outset you are left with the idea of Cassie as the outsider, but just far the division extends is yet to be revealed.
As I said before, there are some more disagreeable elements of the story that could well leave you reeling, perhaps even make you feel like walking away from the book. It would be a shame if you did as although the book contains difficult themes, none of them are handled in a gratuitous way. This is a complex character study, not trying to necessarily answer the question of why certain people act in the way that they do, but certainly highlighting the very different facets of human nature and forcing the characters to examine where they draw the line in terms of what is right and what is wrong.
This is a really hard book to say that I loved, and enjoyed may even be the wrong way to describe it due to the very dark nature of the story. And yet I really did like this book, appreciated the beauty of the language, the way in which the narrative forced different emotional reactions from me, and the way in which a slowly evolving tension grew into a story which left me practically breathless in the end. It is rare to have a book where all of the characters are so unlikeable and yet you are so invested in what happens to them – good and bad – and yet that is exactly what is achieved here, and it’s a truly wonderful thing. Most definitely recommended.
About the Author
Melanie McGrath is an Essex girl, cofounder of Killer Women, and an award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction. As MJ McGrath she writes the acclaimed Edie Kiglatuk series of Arctic mysteries, White Heat, The Boy in the Snow and The Boneseeker, twice longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and picked as Times and Financial Times thrillers of the year. As Melanie McGrath she wrote the critically acclaimed and bestselling family memoir Silvertown. As Mel McGrath she is the author of the psychological thriller Give Me The Child.
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