Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Shot by Sarah Sultoon as part of the blog tour. My thanks to the publisher Orenda Books for the advance copy for review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
An aspiring TV journalist faces a shattering moral dilemma and the prospect of losing her career and her life, when she joins an impetuous photographer in the Middle East. A shocking, searingly authentic thriller by award-winning ex-CNN news executive Sarah Sultoon.
Samira is an up-and-coming TV journalist, working the nightshift at a major news channel and yearning for greater things. So when she’s offered a trip to the Middle East, with Kris, the station’s brilliant but impetuous star photographer, she leaps at the chance
In the field together, Sami and Kris feel invincible, shining a light into the darkest of corners … except the newsroom, and the rest of the world, doesn’t seem to care as much as they do. Until Kris takes the photograph.
With a single image of young Sudanese mother, injured in a raid on her camp, Sami and the genocide in Darfur are catapulted into the limelight. But everything is not as it seems, and the shots taken by Kris reveal something deeper and much darker … something that puts not only their careers but their lives in mortal danger.
Sarah Sultoon brings all her experience as a CNN news executive to bear on this shocking, searingly authentic thriller, which asks immense questions about the world we live in. You’ll never look at a news report in the same way again…
I can’t lie. This is an extremely difficult book to review, especially now. There is no getting away from the atrocities that are currently happening in Ukraine, and for that reason, and many more, this makes this book all the more powerful and resonant in its portrayal of the two central characters, who go into extremely dangerous cities in order to bring the truth of war and genocide to the public’s attention. Every day we are watching reporters doing that in a conflict which is all too close to home. This is not a book directly about war, but it is a book where the realities of conflict, especially for the people who are living through the devastation, are never far from the mind.
In The Shot we are introduced to Sami, a young woman who is only really just finding her feet in television journalism, consigned to the nightshift carrying out a task which is a million miles from where she strives to be. Through a sheer twist of fate, she is offered an immense opportunity, to accompany seasoned photojournalist Kris, an assignment which will irrevocably change her life. Sami is a character who has so much passion for her career, and a real instinct for a story, as well as a few hidden talents that put her front and centre in the eyes of her employers, but also find her faced with resentment from unexpected quarters. She is intrepid, compassionate but ultimately focused on her career. And that could be both the making of her, but also the end.
Kris is a fascinating character. He has a vast experience of reporting from areas of conflict, an impromptu return to the UK being driven by an injury sustained out on assignment. He comes across as brash at times, certainly very direct, but there is a hidden side to him that belies the cocksure reporter that he displays to the world. And this is part of the power of this book. The examination of the toll that is taken on the people who watch the carnage of war, day in day out. It would be almost impossible for that to not make a mark on the voyeur, and Kris is a shining example of this. There is a kind of compulsion within him, a necessity to be in the thick of the action that makes him restless when he is forced to take time out. But there is also conflict within, a kind of dichotomy of personality, and the development of his character is both the most shocking and yet the most expected revelation within the novel.
The action is carefully woven into the story, providing just enough detail to document the damage sustained without being graphic or gratuitous in execution, but it hits its mark every time. It also forces us to think long and hard about the victims and how they react to the violence around them. To think about how we might react if our entire family was lost to us. If you knew the child you are carrying is effectively condemned to certain fate before it is even born. It is those scenes, the quieter moments in which we are forced to stop and face the raw emotions of the survivors and their overwhelming sense of loss, in which the impact of this book is felt. Perhaps even more so than when the full extent of what we are reading becomes clear. There is a moral dilemma presented in this story, one which I’m not sure that anyone could, hand on heart, say that they know how they would handle, and that is part of the beauty of this book. The conflict it will prompt in readers because none of us really know how we’d react if faced with everything that Kris and Sami have seen.
The Shot is a brilliant study of character and Sarah Sultoon brings all of her experience to bear, not only in the portrayal of the two very diverse journalists, Kris and Sami, but in the depiction of the actual theatre of war. In presenting to readers the devastation caused by indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and the destruction of whole communities, in documenting the emotional toll that this takes on not only the victims but the witnesses too, she creates a story which will elicit a range of reactions from readers. It is brutally honest, extremely thought provoking and perhaps uncomfortably topical right now. The imagery created throughout the narrative is stark and vivid, my reaction to parts of it almost visceral, but with the whole story backed by a real sense of authenticity, almost impossible to put down.
About the Author
Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if …
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