Within the template, however, McGrath has come up with some psychologically acute and entertaining characterisations. And where many authors might feel that that would be enough to let them off the effort of constructing a decent plot, hers is of deeply satisfying intricacy.
Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex each have a reason for not acting, and we learn more about their backstories as the suppressed tensions come to a head during the course of a long weekend in a holiday cottage on the Isle of Portland. McGrath excels in creating believably flawed characters, and her masterful control of suspense and pacing make for a psychological thriller that is both perceptive and disturbing.
In the absorbing The Guilty Party friends from university — two men, two women — get together at a pop festival to mark one of their birthdays. As they leave, losing each other in the crowds, each of them witnesses a man sexually attacking a young woman. Later the victim is found dead in the nearby Thames... Each has a different reason for remaining silent. Seven weeks later they gather again. All is not well between them; the reader is told about their drugs, sex and relationships. The events at the festival haunt them. Mel McGrath is a strong, unsettling writer on serious themes. She asks: should it be a crime to witness a violent event, but say nothing?
The Guilty Party is both a dexterously written thriller and a cogent examination of the nature of guilt and innocence... McGrath is channelling familiar #MeToo issues here, but she is too nuanced a writer for simple binary apportioning of male guilt in the current incendiary relationship between the sexes. And she delivers the constituent elements of the modern psychological novel with considerable panache, not least through her cast of variously tormented characters.