Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 February 2021 in e-book; Paperback April 15th 2021
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
A young TV journalist is forced to revisit her harrowing past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. A startling, searing debut thriller by award-winning CNN journalist Sarah Sultoon.
Every now and again a book comes along that touches the core. The Source is that book. Part of that lies in its veracity. I’ve spent a lot of my working life in and around newsrooms and when Sarah Sultoon writes about newsgathering and investigations, the authenticity of what she writes is so strong it gleams in the darkness.
That’s probably why I had this incredible feeling all through the book that what she was telling me was real, not fiction. That feeling is rare and that makes this book special. Chilling is a word we use a lot in relation to thrillers, but if what you mean is that cold dread; that slick of fear that stops you dead in your tracks; that lurch in your stomach as you know something of what is coming, then yes, this is chilling.
Reading about child abuse is always going to have a harrowing impact. Couple it with sex trafficking, abject poverty and neglect and line it with institutional corruption and cover-ups and you have a genuine, heart-wrenching scandal of major proportions on your hands.
Sultoon’s novel views all of this from the perspective of Marie, a young but talented journalist and through the eyes of Carly, a young girl brought up near an army base whose father is dead and whose mother is incapable of looking after herself, never mind her children. Carly’s sole aim in life is to protect her baby sister from neglect. The narrative comes through their stories intertwined with a ten year gap between. We experience events through these perspectives so what we get is the intensity of the feeling and emotion without any need for graphic exploration. Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it still feels pretty harrowing and emotionally raw.
Sultoon’s writing is crisp and spare. Her exposition of how abuse of power works and the devastating tendrils that institutional corruption can send out to all corners is brilliantly transmitted. Her dialogue is convincing and I felt very drawn to her characters.
The Source is not a big book, but it is an important one. This is why independent publishers exist – to tell stories like this one that have real impact and reflect a real world. Taking risks is what Orenda Books is all about and this one has paid off in spades.
Verdict: A white knuckle experience that offers an unflinching portrait of the abuse that exists on our streets and those who trade in it. Sultoon uses her journalistic credentials to excellent effect, handling the subject matter with deftness, sensitivity and assured skill and creating characters we desperately care about. The Source is a tense, edge of the seat read that will have you biting your nails down to the quick. Thought provoking, emotional and sometimes brutal it is both thrilling and heart-wrenching.
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…..