Saturday, 15 May 2010

Bad Faith by Gillian Philip * * * * *

It's almost like getting 2 books for the price of one with Bad Faith.
First, there's a murder mystery. Cass finds a dead body, thinks she knows who the murderer is and hides the body, meanwhile more of her friends and family present themselves as potential murderers - it seems the whole town has a reason to have killed this man.
But also, from the very first page, we are plunged into an alternate, but all too believable, dystopian world. A loosely disguised Scotland is under the dictatorship of Ma Baxter, "President, First Minister and Mother of the Nation", backed by the One Church, where thoughts and actions are policed by the mob rule of religious militias and dissent punished speedily. The murdered man is one of Ma Baxter's most influential supporters, Bishop Todd Lamont, leader of the One Church, whose past crimes are now catching up with him.

The story is told from the point of view of teenager Cass and her world is revealed gradually as she discovers the corpse, the hidden family secrets and how far it is or isn't possible to rebel against the regime. With a privileged and somewhat protected position in this society her view is different to that of her boyfriend Ming who takes it for granted that his secularist parents have been arrested - again! and this time may not be coming home.
An excellent thought-provoking book that deserves more than just a teenage readership. It works well at both levels - as whodunnit and chilling vision. The characters are real, believable people - from Cass's faith-questioning father, her over-protective brother to the religious gangs out to intimidate any who step out of line.
If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or even Brave New World by Aldous Huxley give this a try.

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