The Pact by Sharon Bolton

A new book from Sharon Bolton is always something to look forward to and she very rarely disappoints. Her latest one, The Pact, is a real pageturner; although I wouldn’t rank it amongst my favourite Bolton novels, it does have a typically gripping plot with lots of twists and turns and I read most of it in one day.

The novel begins with six teenagers – Felix, Daniel, Talitha, Amber, Xavier and Megan – awaiting their exam results. As six of the top students at the prestigious All Souls School, they are all expected to get the perfect As they need to go to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Despite having such bright futures ahead of them, the six of them have spent the summer drinking, taking drugs and playing a dangerous, reckless game of dares that, if it went wrong, could leave those bright futures in ruins. And that is exactly what happens the night before they are due to receive their results: there’s an accident and innocent people are killed. Eighteen-year-old Megan volunteers to take the blame, leaving her friends free to get on with their lives – but in return, each of them will owe her a favour when she gets out of prison.

Twenty years later, we catch up with Dan, Felix, Tal, Xav and Amber, now all adults with successful careers, some married and some with children. Although the events of that fateful night have left their scars, the five friends have moved on and Megan has been almost forgotten. Megan, however, has not forgotten about them – and now that she has been released, she is coming back to remind them of their pact…

As I’ve said, The Pact kept me gripped from beginning to end, which is an impressive feat as I didn’t like or care about a single character! Five of the group are spoiled and privileged and admit themselves that they are not nice people, and even the sixth, Megan, a scholarship student from a much poorer background, is not much easier to like than the others. I felt that I should at least feel some sympathy for Megan because of her twenty years in prison – and I usually did find myself siding with her against the other characters – but I struggled to believe that anyone would really have made such a sacrifice in the first place! In fact, the whole plot seemed unlikely and implausible, although that didn’t stop me from enjoying it and hoping each of the characters would get what they deserved in the end.

As the end approaches, there are some of those typical Sharon Bolton twists and turns I mentioned earlier, but I found them too easy to predict which was disappointing when I think of how genuinely shocked I was by the surprises and revelations in most of her earlier books. In this case, I think I would also have preferred fewer twists, as the original direction in which the story was heading was excellent and I felt that it fizzled out slightly towards the end. Despite these reservations, though, this was an exciting, fast-paced read and kept me entertained for a day or two. I don’t read a lot of contemporary crime fiction so it’s always good to pick up one of Sharon Bolton’s books and immerse myself in something different for a while!

Thanks to Trapeze for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

9 thoughts on “The Pact by Sharon Bolton

  1. Lark says:

    I always look forward to reading Bolton’s newest book, and this one sounds especially good, except maybe for the ending. I do still like her Lacey Flint books best. 🙂

  2. FictionFan says:

    I have this one to look forward to soon. I must admit I’ve found her recent ones very variable in quality – she always seems to be trying new things which is good, but sometimes it doesn’t quite come off. However I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this even with a few reservations!

  3. Cyberkitten says:

    I read ‘A Dark and Twisted Tide’ by her a few years ago and really liked it. I’m planning to read more of her stuff going forward.

    • Helen says:

      I think A Dark and Twisted Tide is one of her best. If you liked that one, I would recommend the other three books in her Lacey Flint series, which are all excellent.

  4. CLM (@ConMartin) says:

    Like you, I like the Lacey books better but I will certainly read this once it’s out in the US. Did I dream it or did she say she was going to write a new book in the series?

    I liked the book set in the Falklands but some of the more recent books didn’t work for me – the one about the sisters (Dead Woman Walking) and Daisy in Chains. However, I still like her books enough to read them, whereas a lesser author I would ignore after a bad experience.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t heard anything about a new Lacey Flint book, but I hope it’s true! I’ve found some of her more recent books slightly disappointing too – the Lacey series and her earliest standalones are my favourites.

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