Set in the fictional town of Flinstead-on-Sea in North Essex, The Rumour, is the first book by author Lesley Kara, but fingers crossed it won’t be her last.
The Rumour: The Story
It all starts with a silly rumour. A passing comment or two at the school gates but before she knows it, Joanna Critchley is further cementing the rumour by spreading it around town.
According to the rumour mill, a child killer resides among them – a ridiculous notion of course, or is it?
Flinstead-on-Sea is notoriously known for its sleepy nature. There is just one street of shops, a hand full of cafes and restaurants and an aging population. Seriously, how could a murderer be among them and no one knows about it, it is just not possible.
Joanna Critchely moved back to Flinstead because it is so peaceful. Having lived in London for nearly 15 years, it may seem like an extreme move but her son, Alfie, was being bullied and therefore Joanna heads home to a place she believes will be safe for her son; a place where she herself grew up so she knows nothing harmful resides there.
Nothing ever happens in Flinstead. It is just your normal run-of-the-mill seaside town which hosts tourists during the summer months and hibernates all winter. Life in Flinstead is mundane, boring even. It is the perfect place, in Joanna’s eyes, to raise her six-year-old son.
“Flinstead has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.” (Page 72)
That is until one day at the school gates. Joanna hears a rumour and before she knows it she is helping to spread it. Firstly at her book club and then, after speaking to Michael, Alfie’s dad, who just so happens to be an investigative journalist, she helps to further it by adding more details.
According to Michael, who has a reliable source, he can confirm that the infamous Sally McGowan is now living close by and while there is an injunction out on the press meaning that he cannot cover the story in the papers he is hoping that he can uncover her identity and get her to agree to tell him her version of events. He believes that if only he can speak to her she will agree to an exclusive book deal. There is just one problem; no one actually knows who she is now.
That doesn’t stop the speculation though.
Joanna didn’t mean to fuel the fire; she just wanted Alfie to form friendships. Instinctively she knew that the only way to break in to the popular mummy click was to come across as interesting and worthy of their time. She honestly never believed that there was any substance behind the rumour but if it helped her and Alfie then what was the harm in adding to it slightly. How did she know it would get out of hand?
Before she knows it, Joanna is at the heart of perhaps the biggest scandal Flinstead has ever known. Thanks to Michael’s digging and her gossiping, the town is beginning to believe the stories and the angry mob starts to single out women they suspect of being child killers without a single shred of proof.
Worse still, Joanna has become a victim of her own tittle-tattle. First she is followed on twitter by someone calling themselves Sally Mac (@rumourmill7) and receives horrible threats and then Alfie is targeted.
But who is Sally McGowan? Is there any truth behind the rumour?
What starts out as a silly bit of playground babble has turned into something much more sinister, but where will it end?
“Rumours can kill.” (Page 70)
Why I think others should read The Rumour
The Rumour is a marvellous, twisted and chilling tale of paranoia and accusations that will keep readers intrigued until the very end. Not only does it highlight just how quickly spiteful rumours can escalate it also uncovers topics that, if we are truthful, we would probably hope we never have to face.
How would you feel if there was a child killer in your town with a new identity? Would you want to know? How safe would you suddenly feel even if you had known that individual for years? Would you beat yourself up because never in a million years would you ever have considered them capably of such a horrendous act?
You could argue that the female protagonist was naive on many counts and that no-one would surely be that stupid but realistically I can imagine it is extremely easy to be fooled by someone who has spent many years under witness protection creating a new life for themselves; crafting a story that not only others believe but that they too begin to blur with reality.
This story gets under your skin and you become addicted until the very end. You may think you know how this story is going to end but trust me, you don’t.
Lesley Kara has created a sensational read that will stay with me for quite some time.
The Rumour was first published in December 2018 and has received nothing but rave reviews hence why I decided to read it for the 2019 Travel Reading List Challenge. it seems like the perfect fit for the female main character prompt.
See our other book recommendations for the Travel Reading List Challenge here.