The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

“You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.” The tag line is intriguing, thought-provoking and compelling; immediately your brain starts whirring with possibilities as to what it could refer to. As with any crime, there’s portioning of blame and victimisation, but this book explores the circumstances that surround human decisions and the flight or fight instinct when faced with certain situations. The bright and colourful cover of a story who’s blurb ultimately talks about friendship may make you think this could have a happy ending. But, it’s far from it.

Firstly, I was struck that the book was going to be formatted as a sort of ‘memoir’ primarily from one of the characters in the 1st person, but then as I read on the other characters were written 3rd person, which I thought it was a little odd, but it actually works. It works this way so that you get the true sense of hunters versus prey. The personal touch added by Cassie in 1st person really helps to portray the other characters in their genuine light. They can’t hide.

There are 2 main timelines running through this book; “that night” in August and a 4 day period September/October on the South Coast. I like how the flashbacks are mixed in, but not in chronological order. It really adds to the sense of suspense, because the vital moment isn’t revealed until the end, so you get given the run around by the author each time an anomaly is divulged you think you’re close to the resolution, but no, the story continues on.

Delving into the notion that everyone’s lives are connected, no matter how loosely, and that they will inevitably cross over at some point is so very interesting. Do strangers really exist? This intertwining paradigm can almost impersonate parasitic ivy vines weaving their way around an object until it is held so tight and cannot escape. Lies create loose ends and those loose ends are the vines that suck you down deeper. Sometimes, not even telling the truth will loosen the grip they have on you; it can just raise more questions, and cause even more trouble.

Groups of friends unknowingly create this impenetrable bubble around their lives, secrets and memories. All of which get blurred by time, alcohol (and other substances) and each time a story is recalled it can change slightly; a “chinese whisper” effect. But when a crime (or crimes) are involved, there is a truth. There is an accountable person, or persons, regardless of if or what they remember. And if other people were present, even if they weren’t directly accountable, they weren’t necessarily innocent either. This is an interesting, questioning, socially-orientated book, and I would recommend reading it if you like an unconventional approach to shake up your usual reading because it’s not a typical thriller, so it makes a nice change from a run of traditional novels. And who knows, you might learn something about yourself – because if you were there that night, what would you have done? And are you sure? – GJ

One thought on “The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

  1. You’ve really whetted my appetite to read this book. I like the premise that it gets you thinking about what your own reaction and decisions to a given situation may be and why, and the potential repercussions of that reaction and decisions over time. I’d like to find out if the author explores whether the characters wish they’d made different decisions or how they would have handled things differently. I’ll be adding this book to my (very long) ‘to read’ list!


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