The Pact by Sharon Bolton

Poor little rich kids…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

The PactIt’s the night before A-level results and a group of six friends have gathered together as they’ve done most nights of this gorgeous summer, to make the most of these last weeks they’ll all be together before going off to their various Universities. They’re confident they’ll get the results they need for they’re the cleverest group in their expensive, academically-renowned school. A privileged childhood lies behind them and now they have a golden future to look forward to. But drink and drugs and youth are a dangerous combination, and they all agree to one last mad escapade that results in the death of a woman and her two young children. Panicked, they flee the scene, but they’re sure the police will soon trace the car they were in. And then Megan, the quiet one, the outsider, offers to take the rap for them all. She knows she’ll likely go to jail, but she’s willing to do that on one condition – that the other five promise that when she gets out, they’ll each do her one favour, whatever she asks. The others grab this lifeline and agree. Fast forward twenty years… Megan is back, and she’s ready to call in the debt…

Goodness, when Bolton’s on form there’s no one to touch her for truly thrilling thrillers! This one grabbed me right from the start as I watched these six kids – selfish, yes, but also programmed to be high achievers by pushy parents and ambitious schools – do one stupid thing and then follow it up with another, even stupider. Even though the blurb reveals this early part of the plot, the tension that Bolton creates is irresistible, the definition of page-turning.

It slows down a little in the middle as we learn what our five remaining golden people have achieved in their twenty years. Tal has followed her father into the legal profession and now runs his well respected law firm. Xav is a successful investment manager. Amber has gone into politics and is being spoken about as a probable Cabinet Minister of the future. Felix has used his chemical expertise to set up his own business, from which he’s made a fortune. Dan is the least successful – he’s “only” become Master of the school the group once attended. But as we get to know them, we discover that beneath the glittering exterior of their lives, the memory of that night has affected them all to one degree or another. And now that Megan is back, all the feelings of guilt and fear are also back at full strength – maybe even more so now that they each have so much more to lose. And they don’t even know yet what favours she’s going demand in return for her silence.

After that slightly slower section it ramps up to full speed again, and never lets up till the end. I don’t want to say any more about the plot, since most of the fun comes from not having a clue what will happen next. So I’ll limit myself to saying that although Bolton dragged me far over the credibility line, it’s such a relentless ride I didn’t have time to worry about that at the time – nor even to really notice it. I believed in the characters and in their actions as they were happening and didn’t stop to analyse too deeply (and this of course is why thrillers work best when they are fast-paced).

Sharon Bolton
Sharon Bolton

Other things I loved, that made this work for me when so many other contemporary thrillers don’t (including one or two of Bolton’s own). Third person, past tense throughout, allowing Bolton to let us into the characters’ minds or keep us out as she chooses – and she uses that brilliantly to lead us on and misdirect us. It’s also much easier to put up with unlikeable characters when you’re seeing them from the outside. No “that day” nonsense – Bolton starts by telling us exactly what happened on that day back then before she brings us into the present, and what a difference that makes. She builds suspense on the basis of what might happen in the future, not by refusing to tell the reader what has already happened in the past. Similarly, no dual timeline – Bolton tells us about the past and then about the present, rather than jumping back and forward between them. And although the characters are all pretty unlikeable, they all feel believable – self-absorbed and selfish, yes, but their instinct for self-preservation is understandable even if it’s not particularly admirable.

I loved this one and raced through it, and the climax had all the thrills it needed and then a couple more. I wish all thrillers were written like this! Highly recommended.

20 books 2019Book 4 of 20

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Orion via NetGalley.

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56 thoughts on “The Pact by Sharon Bolton

    • It would! And it would be fun seeing who they cast as the golden people – she makes her characters feel so real that they’d have to be careful not to annoy readers with preconceived ideas… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, yay! This almost makes me as happy as a rise in your TBR pile. 😂
    So glad to hear you enjoyed it. I completely agree about the credibility line and not being bothered by it. More please, indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’ve blocked up the letter box in an attempt to keep the books out… 😉

      Yes, she got such a great pace going and kept it so interesting I didn’t have time to get grumpy about the fact that it was all a bit unlikely! There’s no one to touch her when she’s on top form. I really must get to The Craftsman sometime… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really enjoyed that one. I’ll probably have to read it again at some point though, if the sequel is ever published 🙄.

        You do realise the postie can just ring the doorbell instead, right? 😏

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  2. A thriller which actually thrills? Great stuff, though possably becoming more rare these days, the main reason I have stopped reading them. This sounds fun and full of energy, and would make for great binge reading. The lack of credibility wouldn’t bother me too much I don’t think, so I’ll consider giving it a blast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, so rare! Mostly because authors use cheats and twists rather than just sticking to genuine thrills, I think. But when you get a really good one, like this, it’s a reminder of how fun a really great thriller can be! Hope you enjoy it if you decide to go for it!

      Like

  3. Very happy to hear that you enjoyed this one so much, FictionFan. Bolton really is talented, isn’t she? And you’re right about her ability to ramp up the tension and drawn the reader in. I like that exploration of how a tragedy like that can impact a person even decades later. I think that sort of ‘aftermath’ story can be fascinating. Glad this was a success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She really is – there’s something about the way she keeps the pace going that makes me willing to go along for the ride even if it does cross the credibility line, and that’s got to be the secret of a good thriller, I think!

      Liked by 1 person

    • She’s really great when she’s on form – which she usually is, and certainly is here! I know – it’s such a pleasure when an author relies on a strong plot and good characters rather than on tricks and twists. There are twists here, of course, but they arise out of the story. Hope you enjoy it if you decide to go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Despite the fact I cannot comprehend being responsible for three deaths and then going on about my life (the guilt would eat me alive!!!)… you make this sound SO GOOD that I’ve added it to my wishlist. I probably should go on and put it in the TBR. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I know – but then we’re not privileged rich eighteen-year-olds who’ve been brought up to think that we’re more important than everyone else! 😉 You should definitely put this straight in your TBR… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed this too and thought it was much better than her last book, The Split. I couldn’t quite believe that Megan would really have made such a huge sacrifice, but I didn’t care as the story was so gripping!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I didn’t get on with The Split at all, but when she’s on form, there’s no one like her for thrilling thrillers! I love when an author can make me go along with unlikely events – a real talent!

      Like

    • She’s really fantastic at this kind of thriller – she comes up with such original ideas and then has the talent to pull them off! Hope you and your gift recipients enjoy it as much as I did! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • There’s no one like Bolton for these fast-paced thrilling thrillers! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you get to it sometime. Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

      Like

    • Hah, I know – it makes such a huge difference when an author relies on a strong plot and some great characters rather than on cheap tricks! I keep hoping the That Day trend will come to an end soon… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • If I was only allowed to recommend one contemporary thriller writer, Sharon Bolton would be the one! She comes up with some fantastic ideas and then has the skill to carry them out… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sharon Bolton is head and shoulders above most of the contemporary thriller writers in my opinion, when she’s on form – she has an occasional blip but not with this one! She comes up with such original plots and then has the skill to carry them out. Hope you enjoy it if you go for it sometime! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds SO good! It’s not out yet in the States (and I can’t find who the publisher will be). I’m not sure I can wait, so may treat myself with a purchase. It sounds like a perfect thriller for summer reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How annoying that it’s not out yet! I’m sure it’s Covid that has messed up all the publishing schedules – books used to come out on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. Hope you can get your hands on a copy – it’s great!

      Like

    • Me too, although there have been one or two misses for me recently. But when she’s on form, as she usually is, there’s really no one who does this type of thing better! Hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

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