2020 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · mystery · suspense · thriller

Book Review: When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

Title: When I Was Ten

Author: Fiona Cummins

Published: August 11th 2020

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 464

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were murdered in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Ten-year-old Sara Carter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister Shannon Carter, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened on that blood-soaked night – with devastating consequences for them all.

When I Was Ten is a chilling page-turner by Fiona Cummins.


‘But no news event –except perhaps that car crash in a Paris tunnel- would quite manage to replicate the nation’s collective intake of breath at the Hilltop House murders and the Angel of Death, a blonde-haired moppet who stabbed her parents fourteen times with a pair of scissors.’

When I Was Ten is the fourth novel by crime writer Fiona Cummins. This latest release from Fiona Cummins exposes a double murder, long held secrets, deceit, darkness, trauma and tragedy. Shocking and unpredictable, When I Was Ten will torment you from the first page to the last.

An unthinkable crime defines When I Was Ten. Tracking back to twenty one years prior, we learn of the double murder case of two parents, at the hands of one of their children. A young ten year old girl is cast as the chief culprit of this horrific case. Labelled as the ‘Angel of Death’ Sara Carter is consequently sent away in a locked unit for nearly a decade. Years later, Sara has tried hard to move on from her horrific past by building a new life, with her own family. But the past comes back to haunt Sara when a television crew commence filming a documentary about the case. Drawing on the account of Shannon Carter, Sara’s sister, the documentary churns up new ground. At the centre of these new revelations is journalist Brinley Booth, who was a friend of the sisters at the time of the murders. When I Was Ten is a story of trauma, recovery, confrontation and consequences.

Fiona Cummins has four crime fiction thrillers to her name and When I Was Ten marks the third novel I have read by the former journalist. Incalculable from the opening through to the final paragraph, When I Was Ten offers up a dark and twisted story, full of unstable characters. A dicey tale that will perplex even the most seasoned crime fiction reader, When I Was Ten proved to be a mystifying read.

Divided into three parts, When I Was Ten moves between the past and the present. Fiona Cummins’ latest is defined by a first and third person perspective interchange. The shifts to the past, which outlines events that occurred twenty years prior, provides a detailed picture of the events that contributed to a double murder. Startling, raw and revealing, Fiona Cummins attacks this part of her narrative well. While in the present, the opportunity to follow the journalist and childhood friend of the sisters involved in this horrific case provides further substance to the tale at hand. I actually liked Brinley and this reporter’s take on this case added another essential layer to the story.

When I Was Ten is structured in the form of short and succinct chapters. With plenty of twists, diversions, suspect figures and unthinkable events, When I Was Ten is a disconcerting read. The majority of the book proved to be volatile and unpredictable. I did find the first half of the book worked to set the scene and the pacing was more of a slow burn, instead of an adrenalin ride. Towards the latter stages of the book, the tides change and the violent waves come crashing in, complete with a late twist.

Hair-raising, murky and divisive, When I Was Ten is a gripping tale that will lure in crime fiction readers.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins was published on 11th August 2020 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of When I Was Ten, Fiona Cummins, visit here.

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