Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book
Sara and Shannon Carter seemed to be the perfect children. They lived in a lovely house with their father, the village GP, and their mother, a pillar of the community, and their best friend, Brinley, lived next door.
But the Carter sisters lives were turned upside down one fateful night at Hilltop House when one of them stabbed their parents to death while they slept. One of them was accused of the brutal murders, given the nickname ‘Angel of Death’ and spent her teenage years in a secure children’s unit. The other moved to a foster family and tried to rebuild her life.
Now, on the anniversary of the murder trial, a documentary team has tracked down one of the sisters and the story becomes a national sensation once again – with Brinley, who is now a journalist, tasked with writing up the story. The convicted sister now has a new identity and a family of her own, and has managed to keep her identity a secret from them for all these years.
The sisters have lived with a lie for thirteen years and now it looks set to be exposed, causing their lives to come crashing down once more.
I was gripped by this book from the very first page, and it had me hooked until the very end. Having been an avid fan of thrillers for as long as I can remember, I was starting to worry that I had fallen out of love with the genre – but it turns out I’ve just been reading the wrong thrillers.
The novel begins with a short prologue which sees a 12 year old girl (who we later find out to be Brinley) running, panicked, through the rain to the top of a hill. It follows her internal monologue as she tells us how the grown ups are all dead. As she stands on the hill, contemplating the rest of her life after the events of tonight, she is struck by lightening and the story begins.
The book is set out into three parts, with parts one and three following the three girls – Sara, Shannon and Brinley – in the present day, and part two recounts the stories of their childhood. This section is the most harrowing to read as it tells a story of horrific abuse carried out carefully and in secret, from which the girls, aged ten and twelve, have no escape. There are twists to the story which I didn’t see coming and, despite knowing from the very start that one of the sisters kills their parents, it will leave you guessing throughout.
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I really enjoyed the inclusion of the Justice Minister, Geoffrey Heathcoates, and his views towards people convicted of crimes like this. It gave a good insight into how the judiciary process is not black and white and how, when mistakes are made, when lies are told, and when truths are not believed, people’s lives are ruined. It also poses the question of should we be allowed to treat child criminals like adults? That being said, it did not come across as preachy and didn’t turn the book into a political statement; it just quietly posed the questions as it weaved them through the story. The only thing I didn’t like about Heathcoates’ sections were the details of his sordid private life. I’m not quite sure what they added to the story or why they needed to be included.
The story ends the way it began – with violence. Some reviewers have called it gratuitous but I think it fitted nicely in with the story and it made sense (for the most part). There was one death at the end which seemed quite needless and the story could have progressed in the same way without it.
That being said, there’s not a lot I can find fault with in this book. It has well and truly pulled me out of my thriller-slump and I will definitely be reading more books by Fiona Cummins. I recommend reading this book when it is released.
When I Was Ten is released on 06/08/2020. You can pre-order here.
I was gifted an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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