Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

by Melina Marchetta


Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

‘A novel of great scope, of past and present, and above all, the Marchetta trademark of a fierce and loving heart.’ – MARKUS ZUSAK

‘Melina Marchetta doesn’t shy away from the authentic emotions of her characters… (Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is) an electrifying contemporary detective thriller… for fans of Robert Galbraith…’

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You don’t measure a Marchetta book in number of stars. Maybe in entire constellations, if you really feel like counting.

I’ve been staring at my laptop for a long time, trying to catch my breath, hoping to be able to put into words my love for this book and this author. But when she writes with such passion and cuts so deep with her words, how can I express all my astonishment if I can barely wrap my own mind around it?

This might be one of the most challenging themes so far, as “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil” is a very powerful piece of art with roots sunk deep into the reality – it is a story about tolerance, about what humankind is made of, about heartbreak and longing; and it’s such a realistic portrayal of our modern society, here in Europe – with all the bombing and all the tremendous hate. *sigh*

I’ve been both awed and horrified by the authenticity of it.

It’s true, my heart is bleeding for all those characters, my soul feels crushed under the weight of so much pain and misfortune. But you know what’s the best part about all of Marchetta’s stories? There is always hope creeping in through all that darkness. There is always a smile playing on my lips, there is always the side of wonder that makes me believe in the impossible. That’s what Marchetta excels at: breaking things (usually people; her characters or her readers) into so many pieces that you won’t even remember the shape of them, and then bringing them back to life with just a few simple (but meaningful) words.

newsOh, words.. They are powerful, treacherous weapons, aren’t they?
And people are prone to easy judgement. They judge everything that is different, everything that is new, and they throw words right and left without seeing how deep they sink into somebody’s skin, how deep they cut into somebody’s life. Because they don’t care. You must believe in what they believe or you’re going to hell; you must act the way they want you to act, you must dress the way they want you to dress, you must love the ones they allow you to love… What about freedom of choice, what about individuality?
And then there is the blame.
Someone is always to blame for everything good or bad. Hell, even the Earth will stop spinning if there is no one to blame it for.

Prison-hand-hold-patanasak-iStock_000028860318Small-BWBut people are cruel.
So cruel. Sometimes the punishment is harder to swallow than the mistake one has to pay for. And it’s the cruelty I simply can’t stand these days – both in this book and in real life. It’s suffocating, it makes no sense to me why people choose to be cruel towards each other, why so much hate and racism? Why not stop for a moment to think and feel?

Anyways, this is Marchetta for you: in her books, for all the pain there is healing, for all that’s lost there is someone searching, for all the broken pieces there is a beacon that ‘unbreaks’ them. She empties your heart, she fills it with despair, she empties it once more, only to make it full again – just never the same. It’s a never-ending carousel of emotions you simply can’t get enough of.


tellthetruth-mediumAs much as Marchetta plays with emotions, she also creates fabulous characters that haunt your dreams. Like in the Lumatere Chronicles, there are distinct points of view meant to shed light into the mystery and I slowly got to care for each of them dearly. From Bish to Noor, From Layla to Violette, to Bee (and some of the kids on the bus, and even some more). And it’s not only the present (that reminds me so well of all the horrors happening currently around Europe), it’s the past that kills me even now. It happened in Jellicoe Road, it happened in Lumatere Chronicles, what can I say – it’s Marchetta’s trademark and it works wonders! And her characters are full of life even in death.

The storyline is incredible and full of coincidences (some happy, most sad). There are so many shadows, so many wounds… You see that dark cover? It fits this book so well. I can’t say much about it, the description says enough already, I don’t even know if the mystery was hard to figure out or not (now that I look back, there were some clues hidden between the lines), as I was way to focused on the characters and their dramatic lives. In the end I was left with the same feeling I get when I finish each book written by this author – I already missed the characters to pieces. I always hate the moment when I have to turn the last page.


Maybe I didn’t sell my soul to the devil for this book, but I sold so many tears for a slice of happiness.

I can’t believe just how beautiful and heartbreaking and (simply put) perfect this story is! It is Jellicoe and Lumatere all over again. I’ve never been more grateful for something that makes me cry like this 😉

Book received from the publisher for review. Happiness comes in the shape of books.
Thank you, Penguin Random House Australia, for the physical copy!

Many thanks to Mulholland Books too, for the e-ARC (though it’s been received after posting my review).

Melina Marchetta is the beloved Australian writer best known for her breakthrough debut bestseller, Looking for Alibrandi. She has since been published in 20 countries and won the Children’s Book Council Award twice, as well as the US Printz Award for On the Jellicoe Road.
Her 2009 adult novel, The Piper’s Son was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and her fantasy trilogy, The Lumatere Chronicles was shortlisted for the inaugural 2015 Sara Douglass Book Series Award.

As a script writer Melina has won the Australian Film Institute Award, the Independent Film Award, The NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the Critic’s Circle award for her screenplay adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi. Melina has also written for the ABC TV drama, Dance Academy.

PS: Happy book birthday to this lovely story, and happy birthday to my mother as well (I love you!)

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5 responses to “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil”

  1. Cocoabeans says:

    You’re back❤️

  2. Ari says:

    Thanks, Lis.. I loved it! SO beautiful!

    Still, the book is not only sorrow, that’s the part that gets me every time though.
    Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is also action and mystery, it has funny moments too.. but on the second half, when all threads get connected, it is absolutely heartbreaking (it really feels like Jellicoe and Lumatere all over again).

    PS: I’ll see my mother in a week from now, so we will celebrate then ;))

  3. Ari says:

    It was such a lovely reunion. Not only my family, but some great friends as well. And you know that heartbreaking is a great feeling when it comes to books (in real life it might be a bit of a problem though) 😉

  4. Syeda Hassan says:

    Only you, Ari, only you can do this. Bring someone’s heart to a pause, a treacherous beat, a painful yet hopeful longing with your words.

    • Ari says:

      Thanks, sweetie, it’s just that some books get to touch my heart in such way… oh, they inspire me to try my best to put into words my emotions, my hopes, though I still feel like it’s not enough.

      You will understand what I mean when you get to read one of Marchetta stories.
      I would still recommend to start with Jellicoe or Lumatere (to get used first to her writing style), but this one here is incredibly powerful and raw – even though it’s a bit slower in comparison and it has quite a big amount of supporting characters.
      I could never recommend it enough!

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