Author: Sarah Sultoon
Publisher: Orenda Books
Available: 15th April 2021 in Paperback & eBook
Thank you to Anne Cater, Random Things Tours & Orenda for my gifted copy and for having me on the blog tour for this book. My review is based on my experience of the book and any thoughts expressed here are solely mine alone.
A hugely anticipated debut thriller from former CNN international news executive Sarah Sultoon. Inspired by Sarah’s own time in the newsroom, The Source follows a young TV journalist who is forced to revisit her past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. TV rights have already been sold to Lime Pictures, with Jo Spain writing the screenplay
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier.
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth… and justice.
A tense, startling and unforgettable thriller, The Source is a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience.
I do love Orenda publications, so it is a joy and a privilege for me to be providing a review for The Source by Sarah Sultoon, who is new voice in crime/noir/thriller writing. However, given her punchy, provoking and profound creation, I don’t think it will be long before Sarah’s writing/books become a household name and very familiar to us all.
What struck me very early on when reading this novel was how authoritative and original it was, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a story, an act of imagination not a factual depiction. Although I have no doubt that this story has its dark roots, planted in horrifying reality. There is such an air of actuality and tangibility to the tale and I wondered if Sarah knows something that we don’t and that as such, this book is in some way is a vehicle of awareness, parked under our noses to spark understanding. Given Sarah’s career credentials, such an approach to her fiction wouldn’t surprise me and obviously this is pure superstition on my part but I applaud and admire the effort.
The sense of authenticity (despite the book being set in a fictional environment, the town and news network) only added to the hypnotic pace and the visceral tension the story imbues; get the expressos on, you will require brain fuel, to follow the twisted trajectory of this tale. The core essences of the story are ones about grooming, neglect and the catastrophic effects brought on by abuses of power. What is so stunning (in every sense of the word) is the accepted normalcy of the whole situation. Sarah has taken incredible care to be sensitive and darkly subtle in articulating the scope of the atrocities, the nuances of hidden suggestions, the startling implications revolving around what is said and what isn’t. The depth of the horrors of such reality is intended to provoke thought without driving the reader away (as nothing about the themes this story contains is easy reading) in my view writing like this takes incredible skill. Be in no doubt, elements of this story are ghastly! But they are ones you need to experience for yourself and are perfectly in context and necessary for the direction of the story.
I loved the dynamic between sisters Carly and Kayleigh, it will make you nod and smile with recognition at such a familial relationship (and one most of us can relate to). The extent of the tragedy of their circumstances; the abuse, the neglect is hard hitting and it cannot fail to bring a lump to your throat (it did for me) but it also made me burn with rage and I believe this is a suitable reaction to such hideous happenings, that anyone (even fictional characters) should have to suffer these sorts of experiences and have the strength to survive them in beyond incredible and certainly makes for powerful reading.
Told across dual timelines, we are introduced into the lives of the two main characters; the mid-1990s brings Carly into our lives, fighting to keep the tattered remains of family life together and striving to protect and nurture her little sister Kayleigh. The mid 00s side of the tale is explored through the eyes of Marie; an assistant producer, who has been embroiled in a colleague’s story to expose a trafficking ring (and all the soul-destroying trauma this entails). The character of Carly, her determination, her emotional strength is tangible and inspiring, I forgot on occasion that in essence she is/was a child and the events that taint her life, enforced a level of maturity on her that escape many adults! What she faces and experiences, as an adult you can see the direction the story is taking, and rather like going down a slide, once you leave the top the only option is to slide to the bottom…and as a reader you can do nothing but follow the route there! The sense of isolation, the nefarious nature of grooming and those who perpetuate such crimes is stark in its revelation and certainly not easy to digest as a reader but the impact of readers’ hindsight adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the story but you will have to read the book to see precisely what I am inferring.
Marie’s character is a complete contrast; reserved and maybe overawed by all that is going on around her, but that is probably to be expected given how she’s been dropped into her colleague Dominic’s expose. But of course, there is much more to Marie that the perceived surface, what events have formed her character, what experiences she has had, her demons are not obvious but they are certainly present. I loved the complexity of her character and for me the direction of her part of the story is enthralling.
As to the plotlines of this tale, I have already mentioned that they revolve around themes relating to ‘abuses of power’ and that in this book, the catch all phrase ‘national security’ can obliterate the inexcusable! The nature and far reaching effects of corruption, that tarnishes the most senior echelons of government, a web of secrets and silence…who has kept silent for too long; whose conscience can no longer be appeased; the exposure of the truth is not explosive but emerges in increments. Which serves to provide us readers with an air of anticipation and ramps up the tension (which is both unnerving and thrilling, but that could just be me!) all of this leads to an epic conclusion, but as to the end, expect the unexpected…I know very cryptic of me, well, you will have to read the book and all will become clear!
Sarah has crafted a pacy, intelligent, complex and authentic novel, exploring and exposing some very real and uncomfortable subjects; those of exploitation and abuse. As I said at the start of my (now rather long review) this story is incredible; powerful, profound and necessarily provocative. I couldn’t put it down! Sarah is formidable new voice and I am honoured to shower her with praise for imagining and writing such an incredible read. There is nothing left for me to say other than, you really must read it too!
Happy Reading Bookophiles…
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…
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. Orenda Books was voted WINNER of the CWA Dagger for Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year in 2020. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme.
Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime. Ten titles have been short- or longlisted for the CWA Daggers; Doug Johnstone has been shortlisted (twice) for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and Helen FitzGerald, Matt Wesolowski and Will Carver have been long/shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Helen FitzGerald, Doug Johnstone and Will Carver.
Please do read some of the other reviews available on this blog tour