Today I am finally sharing my thoughts on When I Was Ten, the brand new thriller from Fiona Cummins. I’ve loved the author’s previous novels so was excited to get an early copy of the book for review. My thanks to publishers Macmillan for indulging me. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.
Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.
Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.
Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.
For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.
When I Was Ten is the highly anticipated, stay-up-all-night next book by acclaimed crime author Fiona Cummins.
I often worry when reading highly anticipated books about what will happen when I have finished reading. Nine times out of ten it is because I am worried about how to do the book justice, which is very much the case when it comes to this latest offering from Fiona Cummins, When I Was Ten. If you have come looking for another devious serial killer novel, you are not going to find it here. This is every bit as dark as its predecessors, but disturbing in a very different way. This is a tale of abuse and murder of the most vicious mature, both thoughtful and thought provoking, but also packed with tension and suspense that had me charging through to the final page in no time at all.
This is the story of the Carter family – parents murdered – children separated – public horrified. Upstanding members of society, the thought that anyone could possibly want to murder Dr Carter and his perfect wife seems completely impossible. Horrifying. that the murderer should be one of the family – unthinkable. And yet this is what comes to pass and this book, told principally form the points of view of one of the two sisters and their childhood best friend, examines the truth about what happened and why and the impact that is now has upon the lives of those who survived. It is at times quite chilling, and not simply because this is a case of murder. It is what lies beneath that really caused me as a reader to give pause and to think long and hard about what might drive a child to kill.
Catherine, one of the two key narrators in this story, is an intriguing character. It is clear from the off that she hides many secrets, but not necessarily what they all might be. She has built herself a life of sorts and it is easy to like her, to feel a kind of empathy for her situation, even though she is not entirely transparent. She loves her family, even though they appear to be pulling away from her, but the author has portrayed her in such a sympathetic way that it is hard to be completely suspicious of her, no matter what we believe she may have done. The second narrator, Brinley, now a reporter, again is someone I grew to like pretty quickly. I suppose it is because I could empathise a little with both of them, I recognised elements of myself in their personalities. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never engaged in parricide or been parricide adjacent, but there are revelations and situations in the book I could very much relate to, especially Brinley’s habit of using junk food as a crutch.
The book falls into three parts, two set in the present, the first setting up the here and now and the circumstances that sees Catherine’s carefully built but fragile life start to crumble. The middle section is set in the past, in the Carter sister’s childhood and witnessing the events leading up to the fateful night that will change everything. These scenes in the past are hard to read at times, not necessarily justifying what comes to pass, but certainly making you understand more about why it happens. It is carefully pitched and perfectly timed within the book, giving readers just enough, the tension already having built to such a height that is sets us up for a very dramatic ending. The final third of the book, again in the here and now, sees our two narrators confront their pasts with very dramatic, fast paced, dramatic and full of tension that had me absolutely racing through to the conclusion. Just when you thought you knew everything, prepare to be surprised. There are carefully proffered clues threaded throughout the novel, ones that you may miss but which become very relevant in the end, but they are so cleverly spun into the novel that you may dismiss their significance and end up kicking yourself for it.
As always, Fiona Cummins has gifted readers a beautifully written novel taking us to the heart of the story and examining the psychology, the motivations and the actions of two people pushed to their limits. Yes it is a story of people caught in a web of secrets and lies, of abuse and of revenge, but it is also a story of how far a person will go to protect the people they love, no matter the cost. it’s a book that gripped me from the start and would not let me go and one I most definitely recommend.
About the Author
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror show business journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. Rattle, her debut novel, has been translated into several languages and received widespread critical acclaim from authors including Val McDermid, Lee Child and Martina Cole. Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’
Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’. Rattle and The Collector are now being adapted into a TV series by the Tiger Aspect, the producers of Peaky Blinders.
Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin described it as ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten will be published in April 2021.
When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.