Wednesday 25 January 2023

Dirt by Sarah Sultoon BLOG TOUR #Dirt @SultoonSarah @OrendaBooks #NotUtopia #Thriller #BookReview


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…

Dirt by Sarah Sultoon is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 19 January 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this Blog Tour. 

I read a lot of crime fiction and what I particularly love about Sarah Sultoon's books is the journalistic setting. She draws on her own experiences of working in the news and creates realistic characters who see a different side to ongoing issues. They are not there to solve the crimes, they are there to report and inform, yet often, they will uncover things that lead to the capture of the villans.

In Dirt, the reader is taken to a kibbutz that sits on the border of Isreal and Lebanon, the year is 1996 and the war is unrelenting. The kibbutz community sit in the firing line of shells and bombs whilst trying to create a community that is peaceful and inclusive. Living off the land, all nationalities together, trying their best to live their very best life. 

Lola is English. Her life at home was unhappy and for her, the kibbutz is a place to heal, to mend herself and to start afresh. However, it's clear that the damage done to her is long lasting, and she often makes decisions that only harm her more. 

Our other main character is Johnny Murphy, a cub reporter at the International Tribune newspaper, based in Bethlehem. Johnny is desperate to get out and report on the war, but his boss is more interested in having him compile stats for the paper. Until the day that a source informs Johnny of something that could have massive implications on the conflict. Finally, he is out of the newsroom, and in the field, and it's as exciting, frightening and precarious as he expected. What he didn't expect though, was to find out so much about himself. 

This is a complex and cleverly woven political thriller that never lets up. Sultoon's ability to create the urgency that surrounds the kibbutz, and the wide, eclectic characters that make up the community is just immaculate. The reader never really knows who to trust, and Lola and Johnny are both certainly deceived along the way, many times. 

Dirt is a powerful, informing novel. The writing is sharp and precise and the characterisation is spot on. The inclusion of personal back stories for the lead characters add such depth, meaning that this is not just a political story, but one of humanity too. My favourite of her books so far. Highly recommended. 

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. 

Of Jewish and Indian descent, 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. 

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… 

Her debut thriller The Source is currently in production with Lime Pictures, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, won the Crime Fiction Lover Debut Thriller Award, was a Capital Crime Book Club pick and a number-one bestseller on Kindle.

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