Book Review: The Sham by Ellen Allen

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Title: The Sham
Author: Ellen Allen
Publication Date: September 7, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Mature Young Adult



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The ShamThe Sham
Ellen Allen
BookBaby, September 2014
ISBN 9781483531953

From the author—

When love leads to death, be careful who you trust…

Eighteen-year-old Emily Heath would love to leave her dead-end town, known locally as “The Sham”, with her boyfriend, Jack, but he’s very, very sick; his body is failing and his brain is shutting down. He’s also in hiding, under suspicion of murder. Six months’ ago, strange signs were painted across town in a dialect no one has spoken for decades and one of Emily’s classmates washed up in the local floods.

Emily has never trusted her instincts and now they’re pulling her towards Jack, who the police think is a sham himself, someone else entirely. As the town wakes to discover new signs plastered across its walls, Emily must decide who and what she trusts, and fast: local vigilantes are hunting Jack; the floods, the police, and her parents are blocking her path; and the town doesn’t need another dead body.


Take those words to heart as they’re not written lightly. The first section of this book is harsh but it’s the second section, specifically the first chapter, that will either make you toss the book down and never pick it up again or read on in a kind of need to find out what precisely is going on and how will it all end. Quite frankly, I almost put the book down and I did have to take breathers because it’s possibly the most stomach-churning chapter I’ve ever read. My mind was crying out the whole time, “Is it really possible that teens can be this vicious and uncaring?” The answer, unfortunately, is “yes” as we’ve all seen in recent years. Still, this was a difficult chapter to read.

The rest of the story is also difficult to read but for entirely different reasons. The author keeps the reader guessing at all times, especially about Jack and who—or what—he is and whether he has anything to do with the deaths happening in town. It’s interesting that the name of the book, which is the shorthand version of the town’s name, can also be seen as a metaphor for the story because so much of it appears to be, in fact, a sham. The style reflects the dream referenced below by the author and is quite choppy and disjointed, much in the way one might recall a dream.

At the end, I was completely surprised by the truth that came out regarding the deaths but I was even more surprised by the decision Emily made. I couldn’t help thinking “she’s gone round the bend” and I still think so. I wonder if Ms. Allen will let us know later how that decision pans out. I, for one, would be interested to know.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The idea for this book came to me in a
nightmare… It was so vivid that I imagined I was 17 again, at school, in
the same group of 4 friends that I used to hang around with. We were
involved in a murder and cover-up. I started writing partly as a way to
get it out of my head and then the characters turned into real
people… and Emily and Jack were born. As some of the early reviewers
have stated, it is quite extreme in chapter one, and necessarily so.
This is the incident that sets up the whole book; something
awful happens that sets off a train of events for the characters. This
book is a mystery in two ways in that we’re: 1) trying to find out who killed
Emily’s classmate; and 2) trying to work out who Jack is. I hope you enjoy it!


About the Author


Ellen AllenI’ve just finished writing my first book, so I’ve been busy trying to work out how all the pieces fit together – the planning, the plot, the rules, the imagination, the characters, the grammar, the structure, the endgame… there’s too much stuff to remember and a lot of the information that I’ve discovered online about how to write isn’t that good or even well written (the irony in reading advice on writing that isn’t well written…)

So I decided I needed to find somewhere to store the good stuff. Then it occurred to me that other people might find it useful too. So here it is. My online reference tool of all the useful (i.e. good) advice for writers-to-be. I only post here when I have something really useful to say about the craft (Twitter is for daily musings, Goodreads to review and Amazon to buy my work); it’s all about the quality here, folks, not the quantity… Enjoy!

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sham by Ellen Allen

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