A disgraced London police investigator chases a bombing case across parts of Western Europe in teen author Marchetta’s adult fiction debut.
Bish Ortley gets a phone call telling him that a tour bus full of British kids, including his daughter, Sabina, has been bombed in France. Not knowing the circumstances, he and his mother, Saffron, drive hurriedly across the channel to find that Sabina, known as Bee, is unhurt, and the area is teeming with French police, newly arriving parents, and injured and dead teenagers. Bish had been a chief inspector with London's Metropolitan Police before being suspended from the department after 25 years on the force. (We never find out why; perhaps Marchetta is saving that information for a sequel.) But he’s soon pressed into service and asked to investigate the case because he’s established a rapport with the families of the dead, injured, and traumatized kids. It doesn’t help matters that Violette LeBrac Zidane, whose family was convicted of a notorious supermarket bombing 13 years earlier, was on the same bus and has now disappeared after surviving the blast without injury. Marchetta’s smooth writing and flair for dialogue combine for a mostly seamless read, but the action runs in place for a long time while she sets up the bus bombing. With 16 characters in the first 15 pages alone, Marchetta paints a confusing picture of strange family dynamics and improbable investigative procedure against a backdrop of European racism. Many of the characters, including Bish and Saffron, are of Middle Eastern descent, and Marchetta is interested in exploring bigotry against those who have darker skin. But the hammered-home theme, coupled with a crowded roster of characters and oddly interspersed changes of viewpoints and tenses, serves only to make it hard to care about the outcome of the investigation.
Convoluted and unsubtle.