Agnes Nieuwenhuizen reviews 'Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil' by Melina Marchetta

Much has been made of the fact that Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is Melina Marchetta’s first adult novel. Marchetta is best known for her Young Adult titles, which include Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, and On the Jellicoe Road lively, popular works about the intense lives and tribulations of teenagers and their families, often in a cross-cultural (Italian–Australian) context. Having also ventured successfully into fantasy, here she moves into crime drama. This genre provides a fast-paced, incident-packed, and undemanding reading experience. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, who provides an endorsement for this book, is, along with Maureen McCarthy, Marchetta, and other ostensibly YA writers, widely read by adults. Marchetta is not straying far from her devoted audience.

Of Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, one reviewer noted that ‘reading the whole thing in a searing rush of pages in one sitting is irresistible’. The complex, fast-moving plot, Marchetta’s vivid evocation of her characters, and her perfect ear for dialogue are seductive. Alongside pace and effective character-building, another hallmark of compelling crime fiction is the location of the action in a cultural or political setting and tapping into contemporary anxieties. Here we have jittery British and French societies ambivalent about immigration and security, a context of terrorist bombings past and present, racial profiling by police, and characters of Middle Eastern origins whose complex family connections and loyalties cross borders and generations. With action racing between France and Britain, you have a heady brew and an immersive reading experience.

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Published in December 2016, no. 387

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