The Rumor is a novel of psychological suspense that examines the role rumors play in today’s society. It has a pretty strong moral message, but I never felt that the author was preaching. Instead, the situations in which the characters find themselves deftly tackle some of the most important questions of our time, handling things like honesty, fidelity, and trust with much grace and insight.
Single mother Joanna Critchley has just moved to a small seaside town with her young son Alfie. She’s hoping to give the boy a fresh start after some rather nasty bullying he experienced in London, and she thinks living near her mother in a quieter place might do him some good. For the most part, she’s right. Alfie settles in well, seeming to make friends with some of his classmates, but Joanna herself is struggling to adjust to her new surroundings. She doesn’t have much in common with the other mothers she encounters on a daily basis, and she hopes her own social awkwardness won’t rub off on Alfie.
One afternoon while she’s waiting for Alfie to come out of school, she strikes up a conversation with a group of women who are also waiting to collect their children. Hoping to impress them with her knowledge, Joanna repeats a rumor she recently heard in her neighborhood. Someone in town isn’t who she seems to be. In fact, this person was sent to prison for murdering a child many years ago, and is now living under an assumed name in an attempt to escape her past. The women are shocked by what Joanna tells them, and it’s not long before the news has spread throughout the community, inciting a rash of fear-based violence as everyone tries to figure out who the killer really is.
Joanna never wanted to ruin the life of an innocent person, but it soon becomes clear that the town’s residents will not rest until the truth is uncovered once and for all, and Joanna finds herself torn between her desire to be accepted by the community as a whole and her strong belief that distancing herself from the storm of gossip is the safest option for herself and her son. Unfortunately, avoiding trouble might not be an option for Joanna, especially once she begins to suspect that the mysterious killer might have ties to her own past.
The novel moves quickly, making this a book you could easily devour in just a couple of sittings. The plot itself is pretty straight forward, especially during the first half, but that doesn’t make it the least bit boring or predictable. There are a couple of big twists toward the end that I actually found quite surprising.
The cast of characters is on the large side, and I’m not sure every character really needed to be included. I sometimes found it difficult to keep them all straight in my head, especially as many of them only show up a couple of times. The main characters are all very well-developed though, making it easy for me to relate to them and their various struggles. A smaller-sized cast of supporting characters would definitely have been easier for me to wrap my head around though.
This is the author’s début novel, so I’m willing to look past its few flaws. It’s a book I enjoyed reading, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Ms. Kara’s work in the future.