Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were murdered in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.
Ten-year-old Sara Carter – 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 Shannon Carter, 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 on that blood-soaked night – with devastating consequences for them all.
Catherine Allen will be dead in exactly 10 minutes. Whaaat? Hands up for that amazing first liner! How can you not take note and sit up after reading that?! As it happens, Catherine Allen turns out to be a normal, happily married woman with a teenage daughter. I soon found out that each member of the family is keeping secrets from one another though so it might just be one of them has potentially deadly consequences. Only, with the book blurb in mind, I didn’t see a direct link to the story of Sara and Shannon Carter so I wondered in what sort of a situation I had stepped into. Trust me, I’d know soon enough 🙂
I’d catalogue When I Was Ten as a crime drama, and it reminded me of The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts which I read in 2019 but I was much more satisfied this time because the novel was remarkably better written and the past flashbacks that lead up to the murder itself were very compelling, giving that much needed background to put everything into perspective.
When I started this novel I wondered why a girl of such a young age – only ten! – could kill her parents in such a vicious way. Did the parents deserve this? Was I going to receive a satisfying answer? The answer is yes! The conundrum of nature versus nurture came to mind but didn’t really come in play. The every day life of 10 year old Sara and her older sister Shannon was a far cry from a dream life. Punishment and derogatory comments from their parents being a commodity, the girls were totally isolated and even taunted by the other girls at the ballet school. The only ray of light in their lives was their unbreakable bond, the mutual friendship with their neighbour Brinley and Shannon’s secret crush for a boy at school. There were many gripping scenes and the girls’ past was definitely heart wrenching.
In the present the story is told by Brinley Booth, who is a journalist now. Nobody knows the Carter sisters were her best friends as she joins the hunt for an interview with The Angel of Death. As a side story there’s also MP/Justice Secretary Geoffrey Heathcote who finds himself caught in the eye of a media storm. He’ll have to face some consequences himself for some of his questionable ideas and actions.
If you think that’s all, think again. Fiona Cummins is such a terrific author that interspersed between chapters there’re also mysterious communications between two anonymous parties. It wasn’t very difficult to figure out who the receiver was and I succeeded in filling in the other party towards the end too but I really enjoyed the mysterious nature of them and especially to find out to what end they were sent.
If you enjoy novels about child killers and the impact of the media and public opinion on their release and their right to a second chance, then this is a novel for you. So many years after the facts Sara is hounded down again with a ruthless disregard of her privacy. I could not help but feel very sorry for Sara, and even more so at the end of the novel when I could look back upon the full story. The novel is not full of twists but she does throw in a few belters in the end. A satisfying conclusion!
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.