Book review: When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins

Sunday, August 9, 2020 Permalink

When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins offers readers a big twist about a third of the way through. It reminded me of book-dropping bombshell Clare Mackintosh offered in her debut novel, I Let You Go.

Of course Cummins doesn’t rest on her laurels and adds in another twist or two for good measure.

Book review: When I was Ten by Fiona CumminsWhen I Was Ten
by Fiona Cummins
Published by Macmillan
on 11/08/2020
Source: PanMacmillan
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: B0887VVKRB, 9781509876945
Pages: 464

Everyone remembered Sara and Shannon Carter, the little blonde haired sisters. Their Dad was the local GP and they lived in the beautiful house on the hill. Their best friend, Brinley Booth, lived next door.

They would do anything for each other but everything shifted on that fateful day when Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were stabbed fourteen times with a pair of scissors in what has become the most talked about double murder of the modern age.

The girls were aged ten and twelve at the time. One, nicknamed the Angel of Death, spent eight years in a children’s secure unit accused of the brutal killings. The other lived in foster care out of the limelight and prying questions. Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down one of the sisters, persuading her to speak about the events of that night for the first time.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and Brinley Booth, now a journalist, is tasked with covering the news story which brings to light fresh evidence and triggers a chain of events which will have devastating consequences.

We’re introduced to the players in the past – when all are children – in the aftermath of the murders before skipping forward to the present when we’re in the heads of two women, Brinley and Catherine. And here Cummins doesn’t pull any punches, as the book opens with us being told the latter will soon be dead. So…. there’s that.

The worlds of the two women are upended when Shannon Carter decides to go public with her story. We learn the other women – whoever they may be (though we can assume) have kept their past lives secret and Shannon is about to ruin everything.

In many ways it feels like we spend most of the time with Brinley and I very much liked the journalist. I probably would have liked a little more backstory on her more recent life as, at one point, someone insults her physical appearance and, though I never actually visualise characters, I realised I had no real concept about her life between childhood and now. We do however, learn more about Brinley’s life before the Carters’ deaths.

Our initial introduction to Catherine is brief but we eventually spend a little more time with her. Because of the way Cummins opens this book—and the mention of the threat to Catherine—there’s a sense of urgency and suspense that builds. I liked that we didn’t have to wait until the end but return partway through to continue her story. The movement between the past and present and flow of information could easily slow the pace but it certainly doesn’t do that.

Particularly gripping is the story of Sara and Shannon as children and their relationship with their parents. We learn very quickly their parents were nasty and abusive so there’s a sense they kinda deserve whatever’s coming so (if you’re like me) you’re assuming the murders will be justified.

Again though Cummins only lets us have answers when needed and drip-feeds detail. The twists, when they come are brilliantly executed and the sense of menace is sustained through this book even though we assume we’re only dealing with the fallout from the events of 21 years earlier.

When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins will be published by Pan Macmillan and available in Australia from 11 August 2020.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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