Grip­ping slice of do­mes­tic noir will de­light fans of The Girl On The Train

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Books - Re­view by Susan Swar­brick

The Ru­mour Les­ley Kara Ban­tam Press, £12.99

IN 1969, Sally McGowan stabbed five-year-old Rob­bie Har­ris to death in a derelict house when she her­self was just 10. Al­most half a cen­tury later, ru­mours be­gin swirling that she is liv­ing un­der a new iden­tity in a sleepy sea­side town.

It starts with hushed whis­pers at the school gate, idle gossip to pass the time. When young mother Joanna Critchley hears the dis­qui­et­ing mur­mur­ings, she makes an in­no­cent, throw­away re­mark that un­in­ten­tion­ally fans the flames. Could there re­ally be a no­to­ri­ous child killer in their midst?

At first, she laughs off the sug­ges­tion. But a seed has been planted in her mind. As the pitch­fork-and-torch­eswield­ing mob swings into ac­tion, Joanna has her own ideas about who Sally might be.

She delves into the his­tory of a sen­sa­tional case that di­vided the na­tion: was the girl at its cen­tre a cold-blooded psy­chopath or the vic­tim of abu­sive par­ents and a long his­tory of ne­glect? Sally had al­ways claimed it was a game that went wrong, but no-one be­lieved her.

Joanna’s jour­nal­ist part­ner Michael does his own dig­ging and what he un­cov­ers only serves to con­firm the grow­ing sus­pi­cions. Yet throw­ing open this Pan­dora’s Box is not with­out peril, threat­en­ing to un­leash bone-chill­ing se­crets from which there is no go­ing back.

Les­ley Kara’s de­but thriller is loosely in­spired by the real-life case of Mary Bell. In 1968, Bell stran­gled to death two boys in New­cas­tle upon Tyne. She was con­victed of the man­slaugh­ter of Martin Brown, who was four, and three­year-old Brian Howe.

Bell her­self was just 10 at the time when the first boy died. Since her re­lease from prison in 1980, she has lived un­der a se­ries of pseudonyms.

Her iden­tity has been pro­tected by a court or­der, which has also been ex­tended to pro­tect the iden­tity of her daugh­ter.

The Ru­mour is a gal­lop­ing read that will be right up the al­ley of those who loved Gone Girl by Gil­lian Flynn or The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

It was snapped up by Transworld

Pub­lish­ers as part of a two-book deal ear­lier this year. The screen rights were won by Cuba Pic­tures, the pro­duc­ers of BBC drama McMafia, in a six-way auc­tion.

Kara is said to have drawn in­spi­ra­tion from her own reaction af­ter hear­ing from an ac­quain­tance that an in­di­vid­ual who had once com­mit­ted a heinous and in­fa­mous crime was al­legedly liv­ing as a pro­tected per­son in a safe house within her neigh­bour­hood.

For days af­ter­wards, she found her­self look­ing at neigh­bours or strangers in the street a lit­tle more closely than usual. When­ever Kara saw some­one of the right gen­der and age, her mind would whirr with pos­si­bil­ity.

The Ru­mour taps into th­ese un­set­tling feel­ings, tread­ing the of­ten-pre­car­i­ous line be­tween what is con­sid­ered in the pub­lic in­ter­est and plain old nosi­ness.

All too quickly a seem­ingly in­no­cent piece of gossip can mu­tate into a mon­strous ru­mour with cat­a­strophic con­se­quences.

Kara has a canny knack for psy­cho­log­i­cal sus­pense and lays down a clever jig­saw puz­zle where the fi­nal miss­ing pieces re­main elu­sive right up un­til the last page.

Buckle up.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.