The Tell Tale is an absolutely riveting read. There is a reason that I have Clare Ashton at the top of my favorite authors list. She creates unforgettable characters and stories that stay with you long after the last page is read. From the delightfulness of Poppy Jenkins, the drama of The Goodmans, or the shared experiences that lead to love in Finding Jessica Lambert, Clare Ashton has proven to be one of the most versatile writers in the lesfic community. We can now add the mystery of The Tell Tale to her impressive catalog of work.
The story is set in the 70’s in the village of Foel in Wales. It centers on how the town and residents are still impacted by two teenagers who eloped together twenty years ago and were never heard from again. The story is told from the perspectives of four members of the community, Lady Sophie Melling, Beth Harris and Rhian and Geraint Thomas.
Lady Sophie and her husband Daniel returned to Foel a year ago when her father died and left her the family estate. Daniel spends a great deal of time in London leaving Sophie alone. Sophie was a friend to Elin and distant cousin to Alywn.
Beth Harris has returned to Foel with her daughter Nia in tow to care for her ailing mother. Beth was best friends with Elin in school along with Meg, who still lives in the village. Beth’s daughter Nia has the carefree nature of youth that Beth misses in herself.
Rhian is Alwyn and Geraint’s mother and wife to town council member Bryn. The years since her sons departure have been nearly unbearable and she self medicates just to be able to survive each day. Alwyn always protected little brother Geraint, who has longed for his mother’s attention and his father’s approval.
Residents begin receiving notes letting it be none their secrets aren’t so secret. The quest to find the culprit takes us down a road no one expected to travel and changes the lives of the townspeople forever.
Clare Ashton doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. The misogyny displayed by the townspeople of the 1970’s is still true for many men in all parts of the world. The majority of the men of Foel see women as subservient to men, their only role to raise the children and take care of the home. Their opinions are not asked for nor appreciated. If a woman is single clearly there is something wrong with her and a failed marriage only fails because the woman didn’t live up to her duties. Men are just being men and can do whatever they want and women should fall in line and accept their place. There were a lot of men in this book that I wanted to punch in the throat.
Despite my need to perpetuate violence against the menfolk of this town, all of the characters were so fully developed I felt that I understood their motivations and sympathized with those worthy of my compassion. This is a mystery keeps you engaged and will leave you shaking your head in wonder at the talent that Clare Ashton is working with. She seamlessly connected these characters and their stories. She has an uncanny ability to write prose that leaves you breathless at how beautiful words can be when in the hands of a virtuoso. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way that help to make this one of my favorite books of the year.
ARC received from the author for an honest review