Mel McGrath: The Guilty Party
Published By: HQ Stories
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.
On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.
Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.
But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible?
And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?
What I Say:
‘It won’t go away, that memory, that secret. It will sink into the deeper layers of our friendship until returning to the surface someday, it will begin to destroy us from the inside.’
There is a very famous saying which I am sure you all know. ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’
The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath is perhaps a perfect example of the fact that sometimes they can be one and the same thing.
Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex seem to be a tightly knit group of friends who have known each other for ever, and are the sort of annoying cliquey group who can finish each other’s sentences and are unrelenting in telling jokes and limitless anecdotes about their friendship.
One night, whilst at a music festival, the group witness a a violent sexual assault on a young woman, and do nothing. They walk away, too fearful of the implications of getting involved, and retreat back to their own worlds.
The thing is, that Cassie cannot forget what she has seen. When a body of a woman is washed up from the Thames, the nameless woman is named as Marika, a real person who, it turns out, was actually a part of all of the group’s lives for very different reasons.
So far so formulaic you may think? This is where you are very wrong.
The Guilty Party is a clever and scathing examination of the true nature of friendship, how what you see is not always what you get. It may seem that the group lead a picture perfect life, but each of them is fractured and very adept at maintaining a facade whilst underneath their reality is far from perfect. Cassie is unhappy and desperately short of money. Anna’s seemingly wonderful marriage is far from it and she has issues around food. Dex is constantly cheating on his older husband who has cancer, and Bo may seem to be the very personification of a successful IT entrepreneur, but he has a very dark secret that would ruin him should it become public. The group also use their online Little Black Book to document the people they have been with, which could be explosive should it get into the wrong hands. Coupled with these secrets that bubble under the surface, Anna and Bo, once an item, seem to be unable to untangle their lives and determine the lines of their friendship, whilst Dex and Cassie were also an item before he came out.
As Cassie becomes more absorbed in trying to understand who the victim was, and unravelling the guilt that is seeping into and through her friends, she starts to realise that maybe each one of them had a part to play in Marika’s death.
When the group stay at an isolated cottage for the weekend, it is there that the four friends are forced to finally confront how each of them played a part in Marika’s fate. The location and distance of the cottage from the outside world means that inside the cottage becomes increasingly claustrophobic as Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex are forced to not only confront the reality of what they have done, but also the fact that they may really not be as close as they think. It is as if increasingly their friendship is only held together by the reality that each of them has devastating secrets that they can never have exposed.
The plot moves quickly and backwards and forwards in time, which for me helped to add to the idea that you are increasingly disorientated as a reader, and are never quite sure who is telling the truth. I also really felt that each character really inhabited their voice in the book and that the different language and style of talking that Mel uses, really pulls you in to their world and gives a real insight into their characters.
Little by little, the cracks in the group start to get ever larger and it becomes evident that perhaps the greatest danger is from someone inside the group rather than the authorities. As the novel races towards its conclusion, the friends are forced to realise that they are far from innocent in Marika’s fate, and that their behaviour means that their lives will never be the same again once they leave the cottage.
The Guilty Party is the perfect definition of a page turner. I loved the pace of the novel, and the way that Mel makes you move deftly between the narrative and the characters, so you are never really sure what is going to happen next. It is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of privilege and morality, of friendship, and of understanding that sometimes the ties that bind us together are in fact the very things that also pull us apart. The Guilty Party is a brilliantly addictive novel, that deserves all the accolades it is receiving, and I absolutely loved it.
As Cassie says;
‘If you had been in the churchyard that night, what would you have done?’
‘And are you sure?’
Thank you so much to Joe Thomas at HQ Stories for my gifted copy of The Guilty Party and the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, in exchange for an honest review.
You can find out what my fellow Bloggers are saying about The Guilty Party by following the Tour below.