Happy publication day to Fiona Cummins for When I Was Ten. I had an early proof copy (pre-covid) as this book was originally due for release last August. I can tell you now though, this book is worth the wait. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.
Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.
Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.
Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.
Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.
For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.
Model parents, Dr Richard Carter and his wife, Pamela, were brutally murdered by one of their young daughters. It shocked the country then and twenty one years on, the public are still fascinated by this macabre murder. A documentary is planned, including an interview with one of the sisters who is finally breaking her silence.
Brinley Booth, a reporter, is tasked by her paper to cover the story. But Brinley has an edge on all the other journalists – she knew the Carter sisters when they were children, growing up together in the same town.
I’ve read all of Fiona’s books and the one thing that links the first three – Rattle, The Collector and The Neighbour – is an incredibly creepy atmosphere. When I Was Ten is different. It’s disturbingly real. If you saw the BBC2 drama, Responsible Child, then you’ll have some idea what to expect. It’s still on iPlayer and well worth a watch.
As per usual, Fiona Cummins’ storytelling is breath-taking. Told in three sections of Who, Why and When, the story unfolds with two timelines and different voices – including one of the sisters and their childhood friend. It’s a tale of secrets, abuse and loyalty.
I actually read When I Was Ten at Christmas 2019 as it was originally due for a 2020 release. I thought I’d written a review at the time but when I checked, I saw I’d only written a couple of paragraphs. I couldn’t understand why I’d done that. So I decided to re-read the book and did so in a day. Then I remembered. I had no words then and little more now. How do I begin to tell you about this incredible book that played out so vividly in my mind? There are of course the excellent twists, the scarily believable plot, characters so real you could almost reach out and touch them. The first time I read this book, I did so slowly, drinking it all in. The second time I was on a deadline so I read quickly. But the impact was still the same. The emotional heft was not lost. I was just as invested the second time of reading as the first, if not more so. And I think that’s what I couldn’t describe over a year ago.
In January, I reviewed another book and said I had a dilemma. It was very early in the year to be using the ‘E’ word, not least because I had already read another novel that was worthy of it. And here it is. So, my top ten reads will look a little different this year because I have to use this word for When I Was Ten. Extraordinary.
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. Rattle, her debut novel, has been translated into several languages and received widespread critical acclaim from authors including Val McDermid, Lee Child and Martina Cole. Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’
Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’. Rattle and The Collector are now being adapted into a TV series by the Tiger Aspect, the producers of Peaky Blinders.
Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin described it as ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten will be published in April 2021.
When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.