The Pact by Sharon Bolton

Trapeze | May 2021| 355 pages| e book| Review copy| 4 stars

I was completely gripped by The Pact. It’s a fast-paced novel about a group of five teenagers. It’s summer and they are waiting for their A level exam results. It’s the night before the results come out, the night before all their lives were changed for ever. They were all expecting to get the grades they need to go on to university and to have the brilliant careers they envisaged. But that night was the last carefree night for all of them as it ended in disaster.

For Felix, Talitha, Amber, Daniel and Megan the summer had been glorious – they gone to festivals, lazed around Talitha’s parents’ pool, drinking and enjoying life. That night they decided that Daniel should take the rite of passage the other four had already done that summer. And so it was that they were driving at 80 miles an hour in darkness the wrong way down the M40. The others had had heart-stopping near misses, although Megan had proved to be the coolest of them all. Daniel’s drive was the worst. He drove badly and out of the darkness another car appeared headed towards them and they crashed. A mother and her two young daughters were killed.

What happened next took my breath away. – they drove back to Talitha’s house and after a lengthy discussion when they realised the consequences of what they had done Megan announced that she would take the blame, on the condition that they agree that they owe her a ‘favour’, once she has been released from prison. The ‘favour’ is to do whatever she asks them individually and if they renege she will tell the truth about what had happened that night.

Twenty years later she is released from prison and the time for the calling in her favours begins. The other four have all done well for themselves and hope Megan’s experiences in prison have blotted out her memory about the ‘favours’ they owe her. But Megan is out for revenge and has no mercy for the ‘friends’ who had left her to rot in prison and is determined that they should pay. And so their nightmares begin.

This is a book full of suspense and tension, that just kept building as I read on. It is compelling reading but I didn’t like any of the characters, and I don’t think you are meant to. At times I did feel sorry for Megan – up to a certain point. All the way through I couldn’t understand why Megan had taken the blame. She was from a different background than the others. Their families were privileged, rich and successful, whereas she was from a poor single-parent family. She was a scholarship girl at their private school. She saw it as a token appointment from a posh school declaring its progressive credentials. The others saw her as not really one of them, but she was the head girl and the cleverest of them all. I didn’t think it could be for the power she held over them, surely that wouldn’t compensate for spending time in prison?

It is not my favourite of Sharon Bolton’s books. The ending felt rushed and surprised me and I think it wasn’t really believable, but then I found the plot as a whole difficult to accept. Even so, I just couldn’t stop reading it and managed to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy it.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

6 thoughts on “The Pact by Sharon Bolton

  1. This does sound like a tense, suspenseful story, Margaret. And Bolton is very good at engaging the reader and building atmosphere. I’m with you about needing to put my disbelief aside too much, but still, it does sound like a fine read.


  2. I enjoyed this too and had very similar feelings about it. It’s not a favourite Bolton novel and I couldn’t believe Megan would make such a sacrifice, but I still couldn’t put it down!

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  3. This one is on my TBR so I’m glad you enjoyed it overall. I’ve found her recent ones more variable than her earlier ones – it’s good that she tries out new things rather than working to a formula, but sometimes it seems to work better than others.

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