The Pact by Sharon Bolton @AuthorSJBolton @TrapezeBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 27 May 2021 from Trapeze
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1409198307

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review

A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures – until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.

18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a ‘favour’, payable on her release from prison.

Twenty years later Megan is free.

Let the games begin . . .

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review

A new Sharon Bolton book is always a joy. I love the way her twisty brain works and in The Pact she has given us a terrific chilling and twisty novel that keeps you guessing.

Six students are living the dream. They are the chosen ones, studying at All Saints School, Oxford where they fully expect to graduate with top class A levels and thereafter will float into their chosen Universities to study for their Honours degrees.

In the main they are rich, entitled and enjoying a life of privilege washed down with drink and drugs. The exception is Megan, the school’s Head Girl, who is neither rich nor privileged. She is a scholarship girl from a single parent family who has earned her place through her abilities, though the fact that she is beautiful clearly hasn’t hurt her place in this world where money and looks really count.

Daniel, Amber, Talitha,  Felix and Xav are the others. These 18 year olds think the world belongs to them and that they are golden – they can do no wrong. But such pride always comes before a fall and for this group, a decision they make is of catastrophic proportions.

It is the early hours of the morning when the six embark on a dare that goes tragically wrong. To their eternal shame, not one of these six does more than suggest seeking help for those whose lives they have harmed. No, these glittering youths with their whole lives in front of them are concerned to ensure that the glitter does not tarnish and so they slink off into the night.

They are not stupid enough to believe that that they can get off with what they have done. They know that trace evidence will lead inexorably back to them. So though they are surprised when Megan offers to shoulder all the blame, subject to certain conditions, they are also mightily relieved and grab her offer with alacrity.

What Megan asks for is a guaranteed favour from each of them when she gets out, alongside their visits and letters supporting her while she is in prison, and ensuring through Talitha’s parents, that Megan gets a good lawyer.

It’s fair to say that none of them anticipated the very severe sentence that Megan would be handed. There is no excuse though for what they do. These are not good people. Self –obsessed, they take their friend’s offer with barely a second thought. And then they royally screw her over.

There is something about being wrapped up in the behaviour of abhorrent people that is completely mesmerising. When Megan is released, 20 years later, the futures that these 18 year olds had seen as their birth right have come to pass. They are all very successful in their chosen fields. And I really, really, wanted to see them suffer. (Yes, this makes me no better than them, I freely admit)

But Megan presents as a cold and calculating threat to her former friends. She makes it very clear that she has come to claim her pound of flesh. And so the friends regroup and the darkness resumes….

Sharon Bolton paints a compelling portrait of each of these characters and though they have succeeded, you can see that none of them has been left untainted by what happened that night. It’s hard though to feel sorry for them because the way that they treated Megan, then and now. Not once did they ask themselves why she made the offer. Partly because they were just so relieved, but also in part because she was the outsider. If this was Friends, this episode would be called ‘The One with the Poor Student.’

Bolton has created a brilliant set of characters each one entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse. She writes superbly, with three dimensional characters and lots of clever plotting which is so delightfully layered and infused with unpleasantness, that as she reveals each character’s life and the reality of their situation the tension only increases.

Verdict: The Pact is a gripping psychological thriller with characters that will make your teeth hurt. Bolton’s grasp of human weakness is intelligently explored leading to a strong, disturbing and riveting storyline that is both propulsive and addictive. She captures the atmosphere well and at times the tension is so palpable it stifles. This is fantastic, vivid storytelling and a must read.

Bookshop.org                  Waterstones                    Hive.co.uk

Sharon Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career in marketing and public relations. She gave it up in 2000 to become a mother and a writer. Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark Award (part of the prestigious Edgars) in the US. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger, the Theakston’s Prize for Best Thriller, the International Thriller Writers’ Best First Novel award, the Prix Du Polar in France and the Martin Beck award in Sweden.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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