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.
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Source! And happy e-publication day to Sarah Sultoon!
When I first read the blurb, I felt excitement but also some trepidation. I knew I wanted to read it, desperately so, but I was also a teensy bit afraid of what would happen to me and my poor fragile heart between the pages of The Source. However, one should always face one’s fears head on, so I dove right in, and I’m happy to report I didn’t regret it for a second.
The Source has a dual storyline, switching between Carly in 1996 and Marie in 2006. I immediately warmed to both girls and felt triggered (in a good way) by both timelines.
Carly is a teenager living in squalor in a filthy army house in a deadbeat town. With her dad killed in action and her mum drunk more often than not, it’s usually Carly who makes sure her baby sister doesn’t starve and doesn’t have to go to sleep in a dirty nappy. Carly is caught in a situation beyond her control, she has resigned herself to the life she has but has resolved to make her sister’s life better, so she never has to do the things Carly does, whatever it takes.
Marie is a junior journalist who, when the reader first meets her, is buying a girl from sex traffickers to expose their trafficking ring. Just as the whole exposé seems to be coming together, about to make a huge splash, a spanner is thrown in the works when an old police investigation into sexual abuse in the military is reopened. Marie is a mysterious character, troubled but strong, determined, and before long she too will have to face her fears head on.
Sexual abuse, sex trafficking, let’s be honest, it’s been done before, it’s been a hot topic for many many years, and especially since #MeToo one can hardly walk into a bookstore without stumbling across a dozen novels that have the pitch-black side of sex at their core.
So what sets apart The Source? Well, excellent writing for one thing. Sarah Sultoon had me from the word go and if I hadn’t been told this is her debut, it never even would have occurred to me. Her writing drew me in, dragged me under, and so did her characters. Somehow Sarah Sultoon makes everything feel fresh and new. I think the setting plays a large part in that too: the army base in Carly’s timeline, and especially the newsroom in Marie’s. Coming from a CNN journalist, this storyline basically comes straight from the horse’s mouth, it’s very realistic and the tension just leaps from the pages.
Important to know is that The Source does not have actual abuse scenes. It doesn’t go further than a few remarks between friends and a meeting with a man who is obviously one of the bad guys but in a rather circumspect and covert manner. That did not diminish The Source‘s impact on me at all. If anything, I found that what is left when you take away the explicitness is more harrowing than an abundance of actual scenes to make me cringe, more powerful.
The Source is a cracking debut, a thought-provoking, at times gut-wrenching drama and a riveting thriller. It is super addictive, it crackles with tension, and the further I got, the faster I was turning the pages because I just had to know EVERYTHING. Highly recommended.
The Source is out now in digital format. Paperback lovers will have to wait until 15 April (well worth the wait, though!).
Hugest of thanks to Orenda Books for the proof copy. All opinions are still my own.