The Source by Sarah Sultoon #BookReview #Extract #BlogTour

One last chance to reveal the truth…

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.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Source today and to have a extract to share with you as well as my review. Many thanks to Sarah Sultoon, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The two perspectives we follow throughout The Source; Carly in 1996 and Marie in 2006 reveal a tale of horrific abuse but more than that, this is also a damning exploration of an imbalance of power which has prevented the full, repugnant truth from being exposed under the guise of national intelligence. It's also a thoughtful, important examination of the importance of journalism, recognising the responsibility and integrity which should be central to the profession while still acknowledging that being able to tell these stories and expose those who ought to be held to account is also dependent on sources, exclusives and ultimately, ratings.
The tense opening finds the inexperienced journalist, Marie taking part in an undercover operation for a story on human trafficking. It's a dark, exciting beginning with a menacing exchange followed by a dramatic scene involving a dramatic pursuit to a Travelodge which suggests that if Sarah Sultoon writes another novel about Marie - and I hope she does - there is plenty of scope for an explosive thriller. Here, however, that story is quickly shelved after the Met announces they are re-opening the notorious Operation Andromeda case which means all other investigations are immediately put on the back burner. The previous investigation into allegations of sex abuse at the army base in Warchester led to several arrests and convictions but there were still those who were protected in the name of national security. 
Andromeda - of course - leads back to Carly, who in 1996 is a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Despite an obvious aptitude for Maths, it's soon evident that Carly looks destined to wind up on the scrap-heap of unfulfilled dreams and heavy responsibilities. Her soldier father was killed in action and thanks to his army pension, her mother became a magnet for scroungers and has since become a hopeless alcoholic. It's left to Carly to do what she can to care for her infant half-sister, Kayleigh but her squaddie brother, Jason's occasional visits bearing essentials and treats proves not to be the lifeline she so desperately needs.
I found it easier to warm to Carly than to Marie for much of the book; her acceptance of her situation is harrowing but although she is a powerless victim, the strength she draws from her desperate desire to protect Kayleigh is painfully poignant. Marie, meanwhile is harder to understand, although this is because she is clearly withholding a past she purges both physically and mentally. The turmoil in her mind is mirrored by the frenzied atmosphere she works in and there's a necessarily more confusing sense to her chapters until later in the book. The authenticity of these scenes and the shadowy world of high-level intelligence are a stark reminder that what we the public know is frequently dependent on what we are told. Readers are never left in any doubt as to the extent of the abuse perpetrated here, and it is utterly sickening, but it occurs off the page  - and crucially, still in the memories of those who were victims.
 The Source is a complex, distressing read which sensitively explores the terrible risks that come from allowing supposed patriotic or national interests to appropriate what is morally right. It is also a powerfully persuasive testament to the vital need for these stories to be told, both in our news and through fiction, in order to finally give victims the redemption and recognition they are owed. Sarah Sultoon's accomplished debut never shies away from the worst of humanity while still allowing us to believe in survival and hope. 

Marie ~ London ~ 2006

‘Slow it down,’ Dominic hisses into his cuff as we walk, scratching a non-existent itch on his cheek. The trees nod again, whispering as they lift and fall in the breeze. He’s right. They’re still watching. Only when we reach the gates does Dominic step in front of me, edging through the side access out on to the shallow pavement fringing the access road back up to the motorway roaring in the distance. Only now can we start to move at a clip, breathing in time with our march along the pavement, van purring up alongside us like a giant, sleek cat. Finally I allow myself a little mental jig, just for a second, just as I climb inside behind him. It’s not like anyone can see me, is it? 

Dominic exhales, head hanging between his legs, hands strafing through his hair. 

‘It’s over, sunshine. You made it. And you’re alright.’ 

Jemima murmurs as she rests a hand on his shoulder. If the van’s a cat then she’s its kitten, coiled watchful in the corner. I feel her eyes on the side of my face as her gaze flicks between us, adrenaline coursing through me like an electrical current. It should have been her, Jemima Jonas, the jewel in Nine News’s production crown, Crufts-level news pedigree, award-winning trophy cabinet. Except it was me. And she knows it. 

‘Slow down a sec,’ Dominic says, leaning forward into the driver’s seat. ‘Bill!’ 

‘No way, Dom,’ Jemima says, pulling him back. ‘We’re not far enough…’ 

Dominic tangles with her, reaching over me to stick his head out of the window
‘No one can fucking see me, Jonas,’ he shouts into the wind, closing his eyes, gale thumping our faces as the van speeds on to the motorway. 

‘Jesus wept,’ he yells, bouncing back down between us, all punk hair and manic eyes. ‘If all this TV shit doesn’t work out then at least I know I could be a pimp. Hah!’ 

I roll up the windows, meeting Bill’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. I don’t have to see his whole face to know he’s smiling. If I was him, I’d smile too. He wasn’t inside. 

‘Good job, Marie,’ Jemima says, flopping back into her seat. ‘And if our resident drama queen over here hasn’t had enough for one day, shall we see if we actually did the job first rather than congratulating ourselves just for not getting caught?’ 

‘Here we go again,’ drawls Dominic. ‘Jemima Jonas, Nine News’s heart of stone and balls of steel. I just bought myself an underage virgin, for Christ’s sake. Every news network in the country will weep for days when this goes out, not to mention those useless suits over at the Met, and you’re more interested in giving me grief ? It got hairy in there, since you asked. But we’re fine, thanks. Just dandy.’ 

‘Hairy? Hairy how?’ She snaps open the computer in her lap, stabbing at the keyboard. 

‘They brought in another pair,’ I say, swallowing the heartbeat racing up my throat. ‘I thought it was just to jack up our price but they barely let the auction run before belting them—’ 

‘You what?’ Dominic interrupts, eyes blazing at me. ‘You think all that was just for kicks and giggles? There’s teeth still scattered all over the corridor…’ 

‘There wasn’t a madame though, was there? Two men. You said it yourself. There’s always a madame … and if it was really about the money, they’d have let it roll a bit longer, surely…’ 

‘They told you that, did they? In the many conversations you’ve had over the weeks, nay, months, that you’ve been meticulously developing contacts to get us here in the first place?’ 

The Source is published by Orenda Books, it is available now in ebook and will be out in paperback on 15th April 2021. It can be purchased from the publisher's website, Amazon, KoboWaterstones, Hive, Please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
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… Sarah lives in London with her family, and she’s currently working on her second thriller. 


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