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.
When an author writes a novel based on what they know and what they do in their everyday work life it can go one of two ways, its either overloaded with far too much detail and banal insider stuff or its totally fascinating and perfectly compliments the story the author is trying to tell. In Sultoon’s, The Source, the latter was very definitely evident, the premise of sex trafficking, investigative cover ups all true in the world we currently inhabit.
As much as the plotline was important stand out characters are always needed to carry the story, Maria and Carly definitely stood out, Maria 2006, Carly 1996. Carly was the young teenager, whose life on an army base was fraught, an alcoholic mother who couldn’t take care of herself never mind Carly and her baby sister Kayleigh. Sultoon gave her a naivety and a desperation that made her extremely vulnerable, a need to provide for her sister the overriding reason as she followed her brother into a world of army parties and what we could only assume the provision of sexual favours for officers and guests. Sultoon hinted at a reticence, her best friend Rach the driving force the one that pushed, that coerced, yet gave Carly reassurance, a mother figure who appeared in some misguided way to offer what her own mother could not.
2006 and Maria, a junior production assistant for a news channel who worked undercover to expose a sex trafficking ring, again Sultoon showed a vulnerability, the shadow of something in the past that weighed heavily in her present. She had a fragility, but also a steely determination that rose to the surface as the story unfolded.
It wasn’t until an investigation into the army’s own sex trafficking scandal that Sultoon cleverly blurred the lines between past and present, between Carly and Maria. Suddenly we wondered if there was a connection, and if yes what that connection was as Sultoon ramped up the stakes for both girls. I loved that she highlighted their fragility, the mental and indeed physical anguish it imposed on them, the gradual wearing down of resistance, the inability to be able to move forward. You understood why the word ‘no’ wasn’t a thing to be tolerated, what reasons drove young women to do such desperate things, and it stirred anger and incredulity in you as you read.
The slow unfolding of lies, of cover ups, of individuals selfish motives to protect themselves, was prevalent throughout but none more so than in the second half of the novel, as Sultoon revealed the horrors that faced young girls, and their exploitation by those in power. In some ways it was shocking but then in other ways not when in recent years we have read of similar cases in Rochdale, but what Sultoon managed to do so brilliantly was to get inside the heads of those young girls, of why they did it, of the fear, the manipulation, the long term after effects that no one could ever take away from them.
As much as this was about the psychology and the intricacies of sex rings, The Source was also a brilliant story. It had fantastic characters, a storyline that twisted one way then the other and the ability to hold your attention throughout to the point i did not want to put it done. It was hard to believe that this was Sultoon’s debut novel and I am very much hoping another novel is in the pipeline.
I would like to thank Orenda for a copy of The Source to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Booksih Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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…