I promised myself after reading The Split by Sharon Bolton that I would not hesitate to read her next book and here I am with The Pact and reaffirming my commitment to continue reading her work as a priority. Another outstanding psychological thriller with a devilish plot that is full of tension, mystery, and the ultimate consequences of making a pact that someday needs to be honoured.
Six college students sitting top of their class at All Souls School in Oxford, face a future that appears full of possibilities and rewards. Talitha, Felix, Xavier, Daniel, Amber and Megan plan their next step to University and after their A’ Level results the following day, have a summer of friendship and pleasure ahead. That night, however, is Daniel’s turn to undertake the dare they have each completed and drive the wrong direction between two junctions of the motorway. Only on this occasion, it results in the death of a mother and her two young daughters.
The psychological torment they each feel as their future dreams are wiped out before they even started, is brilliantly drawn, never mind the guilt of causing three innocent deaths. The turmoil of each character as they try to concoct a plan is palpable and each of the friends has a different suggestion, fear and finger to point, which is so cleverly weaved together in an unsettling drama, that you can feel the despair. Megan offers a solution – she will take the fall for them ALL and claim that she alone was in the car that night. The price for this is that they all owe her a favour of whatever she asks. She video records their testimony and signed proof of their complicity should she ever need to use it.
Twenty years later Megan is released from prison, having served the full sentence, and having suffered multiple attacks and injuries which have left her physically and mentally damaged with amnesia of the night in question. The last twenty years have been good to the other five with Talitha now a senior partner in a law firm, Felix is a successful entrepreneur and businessman, Xavier is an investment banker, Daniel is head of All Souls School and Amber is a junior minister in the current government and a rising star.
While the plot is fantastic the real brilliance is the character study, in how each deals very differently with Megan, the guilt of never having visited or called her, the shame of wishing she was never released, and the fear of the price to be exacted. As the tension rises and Megan appears shrewd and highly capable, the other five struggle to agree on how to deal with her and their relationships come under significant pressure. The suggestions could not be more extreme, and Megan seems to always be a step ahead and integrating herself into their families.
Sharon Bolton is a master of the psychological thriller, with her devilish plotting and deft use of the emotional turmoil her characters face. It is difficult to put this book down as the pace and tension are so compelling. I would highly recommend this book – really superb, and I would like to thank Orion Publishing, Trapeze and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy in return for an honest review.