Published: Janaury 19th, 2023
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Political Thriller, Political Fiction, War Story
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this compelling thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Karen at Orenda for the ARC.
A compulsive, searing political thriller set on a kibbutz in Northern Israel, where the discovery of the body of an Israeli-Arab worker sets off a devastating chain of events…
‘A first-class political thriller’ Steve Cavanagh
‘A bitingly sharp, pacy thriller. Devilishly good. I inhaled it’ Freya Berry
‘A powerful political thriller that brims with authentic detail. Clever, compulsive and achingly atmospheric’ Kia Abdullah
This is no utopia…
1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.
Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.
When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…
“The body steamed gently in the heat as the birds pecked their way around it, the fetid smell of chicken feed mingling with the sulphurous whiff of smashed eggs. The pecking became indecorous as the hardest-working chicken, a champion amongst fowl, found an eyeball. Then another.”
When a thriller opens with lines like that you know you’re in for a great read. And Dirt did not disappoint. There is a sense of foreboding that hovers over the pages from the start, something ominous in the air that we are yet to discover. And there is a lot to discover in the complex, layered and twisty political thriller filled with secrets, tension and cover-ups.
1996 is a nostalgic year for me. I was 17-years-old and it was the year I felt I found a sense of freedom and adventure among my peers, so I instantly connected with Lola who is experiencing that on a much bigger scale in this story. Lola has left behind her unhappy home life in England for an adventure in Northern Israel alongside her Jewish best friend, Sam. The two are working as volunteers on a kibbutz, a fabled utopian farming community located on the Arab-Israeli border. There is a real sense of family living and working alongside these people every day. But when a body is found in the heavily guarded community all signs point to murder, and it seems Lola doesn’t know these people as well as she thought.
Meanwhile, our other narrator, Jonny, is hundreds of miles away in Jerusalem. Jonny has also come to the country to find himself, a quest to learn more about his heritage after his Jewish mother was disowned by her family for falling in love with his Irish father. A reporter for the International Tribune, a source alerts him to the body discovered on the kibbutz. Unable to resist the lure of a story, he travels there to investigate, not realising the dangerous chain of events he is about to ignite.
“You have no idea what you’ve stumbled into. Everyone thinks that it is simple – both sides hate the other and will fight to the death until one of them wins. Nothing’s ever that simple though is it?”
Sarah Sultoon isn’t afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Her debut, The Source, was a hard-hitting read and this one is just as unflinching. Alongside her examination of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an exploration of identity that also touches on subjects such as prejudice and sexual assault. While there are occasional gruesome scenes, it is never graphic and she instead focuses on the emotions of the characters to tell her story, making the reader feel everything alongside Lola and Jonny. The writing is so evocative that I was transported and it was almost like I could feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the kibbutz or feel the terror as rockets flew overhead during an air raid. It gave me a real connection not only to the characters, but to the setting itself, something that is very important in this book.
A clever, intriguing and intricate thriller that I’d highly recommend.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… Sarah lives in London with her family, and she’s currently working on her second thriller
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.