Thursday, 24 November 2022

The Judas Tree by Amanda Jennings #TheJudasTree @MandaJJennings @HQstories #TheJudasTree #BookReview


At a bleak boys’ boarding school in Cornwall in the eighties when bullying is rife, Will and his best friend, Luke, are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving.

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of a painful childhood come flooding back to haunt them both.

Will’s wife, Harmony, is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, and wishes Will would open up about what happened. But as Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband’s past, Luke, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt and desire . . .

From Amanda Jennings, author of The Cliff House, comes a haunting thriller about betrayal and revenge.

The Judas Tree by Amanda Jennings is published in paperback today, 24 November 2022 by HQ.

The Judas Tree was originally published in 2014 by Cutting Edge Press and was titled The Judas Scar. I read it and reviewed it back then and it remains one of my all time favourite books. 

I'm happy to re-share my review today, to celebrate the re-packaged publication of The Judas Tree. 

Things are never quite as they seem on the outside. That's certainly true of Will and Harmony's marriage. They appear to be rock solid. Married for twenty years and so in love, both have careers that they enjoy, they love their quirky flat, they have many friends. But this is a story about scars and their marriage bears a huge scar. Harmony lost their unborn child a few months ago, and she is hurting. Will has always been clear that he doesn't want to be a father, and when Harmony decides that she'd like to try for another baby, the old wounds beneath Will's scars open up and he discloses a secret that could potentially rip their world apart.

As Harmony deals with Will's disclosure she finds herself drawn towards Luke; an old friend from Will's schooldays. Will and Luke have matching, visible scars - across the palm of their hands and created when they decided that they were blood brothers and would never let each other down. It is clear though, as the story progresses, that Luke has invisible scars too. He and Will are not comfortable in each other's company, there are secrets in their past that have never been discussed, and Luke intends to make someone pay for the way that his life turned out.

Amanda Jennings's writing is broody and dark, there is an underlying tension throughout this novel that is just waiting to explode. Will and Harmony are well-formed characters, they both have issues; Will can't bear to talk about his schooldays or his late Father, Harmony struggles to cope with the loss of those that she has loved; her Father, her Mother and her unborn child.

Luke is obsessive. He sets his sights on Harmony and is not prepared to give up until he has got what he wants. Obsessions, tormentors, bullying and scars; both hidden and visible - these are the themes that run through The Judas Scar, and as the story twists and turns to the shocking conclusion, the reader is swept along by the wonderfully descriptive writing.

The Judas Tree is one of those novels that you need to keep reading ..... just one more page ..... because the instant that you put it down, you'll be thinking of it, and when you finish it, you'll be wondering about it for quite a while.

Tense, tightly plotted with characters that are by no means perfect, and in some cases just twisted. I was totally transfixed by the story - an excellent read from a talented author.

Amanda Jennings was born in London in 1973, and her family moved to a village in rural Berkshire
when she was young. She accepted a place to read architecture at Cambridge University, but it soon became clear it wasn’t for her and after a year she changed course to History of Art. After she finished university she set up a company with a friend writing copy for a variety of small businesses and then a year or so later was offered a job as a researcher at the BBC. But when she had her first child she found it hard to juggle home life with working, and could no longer ignore her yearning to write. When she became pregnant with her second child, and encouraged by the success of a shortlisted sitcom script in a BBC writing competition, she took the opportunity to be at home with her children, and grabbed every spare moment she could find to write.  

Sworn Secret, her first novel, was published in the UK in August 2012. On kindle it was #4 bestseller in the UK, a Top 100 bestseller in the US, and reached the #1 spot in Italy in translation. It was also published in Taiwan in translation. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was published in May 2014, and shortly after was optioned by a film and television production company. In Her Wake, her third, was a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and will be published in Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Italy. The Cliff House is published by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins, in hardback, audio, ebook, and paperback, as well as internationally. HQ published The Storm in July 2020 and The Haven in March 2022.   

Amanda enjoys appearing at events, is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Book Club, and is a judge for the annual Henley Youth Festival writing competition. She has been involved in the WoMentoring Project, which offers mentoring support for talented female writers with women who work in the literary world, and run writers' workshops.   

Amanda lives just outside Henley-on-Thames and has three daughters and a varied menagerie. She is currently writing her sixth book, which will be set on Bodmin Moor. When she isn't writing she can generally be found walking the dog or dreaming of mountains or the sea. She loves connecting with readers and can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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