Review: Carnaby by Cate Sampson


Genre: Crime (YA)
Published: July 2013

Sarah Carnaby has a tough life. She lives in a cramped, damp flat with her mum, her older sister Jude and Jude’s daughter Em. It’s Sarah who cleans the flat, who takes care of Em, and holds it all together. But when her mum is murdered, Sarah’s world begins to crumble. Jude’s boyfriend Borys is the main suspect. With Jude’s second baby due, and Social Services threatening to split up their family, it is up to Sarah again to try and keep everything under control. Another murder in the same block of flats, and some shocking revelations, show that her mother’s killing may not have been as straightforward as it seems…
This is Cate Sampson’s first YA novel, and her background in crime writing shines through. Sarah is an interesting protagonist, particularly during and after the trial. I’m not entirely sure whether I liked her or not. Her feelings of being lost and rootless after her mother’s death are particularly strong, Sampson describes it powerfully as a feeling of being headless. ‘My head comes off. My body still keeps going.’ It was a gritty thriller, dark and dangerous. It is not always an easy read, and there are some painful revelations about the characters’ pasts. Some scenes towards the end were less believable, sometimes feeling a bit stretched, but overall it was a compelling crime read, with some very dark secrets lurking beneath the surface. Definitely for older readers, 14+.

Review originally for Inis Magazine (


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