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Charlotte Goodwin looks directly at the camera and reveals a chilling truth to the thousands watching her Instagram Live broadcast. She has killed her ex-boyfriend’s new partner in cold blood. But she is not finished yet. With bloodied hands she takes a calm sip of tea before continuing. Lincoln Jackson will now make his confession, then the viewers must vote to decide whether he should live or die.

The public display sends shockwaves rippling through the online community and the numbers of viewers skyrockets. But as Lincoln’s past is revealed, how will he be judged?

Bonded by mutual tragedy, Charlotte’s three best friends have supported each other through the soaring highs and devastating lows of their lives. Now, in Charlotte’s hour of need, her friends also face a choice, whether to help her get away with murder. The Hive explores our darkest fears of the relationship between social media and mental health, but, most importantly, the strength of true friendship through the highs and lows of life.

Scarlett Brade’s debut The Hive is every bit the classic revenge tragedy. Passionate love affairs, all-consuming jealousy, unforgivable betrayal, and deep, sustaining friendship combine to form a plot dripping with delight in its exploration of the murkiest of human instincts. Far from just observing the tragedy from afar, the digital voices in this book are invited in to make the most harrowing of decisions. If strangers behind screens can share in the story, Brade seems to be asking, why shouldn’t they also share in the responsibility? Protagonist Charlotte Goodwin falls easily into a relationship with the tall, handsome and famous Lincoln Jackson. He appears like a modern-day Prince Charming, offering Charlotte his adoration and a life of luxury that lifts her up from the day-to-day mundanity of her job in administration at a cosmetic clinic. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends, all of whom struggle with the impact of traumas past and present, and dreams of being a mother. After escaping her own painful background, she is looking forward to the life she deserves when her plans are pulled apart by an increasingly sticky web of lies, unfaithfulness and, ultimately, violence.

The ultimate question the book poses is how the band of women surrounding Charlotte will choose to respond – will they support her and maintain the bonds of sisterhood, even when she’s been pushed to such brutal extremes? This bold debut clearly sets out to test the boundaries of loyalty and ask you where your own limits lie.

This is one of those books that begins with the end and carries the reader into the protagonist’s life to explain why that outcome was inevitable. With a strong beginning where viewers of a live broadcast can choose whether Lincoln lives or dies, the novel immediately gets you hooked. Social media has its bonuses but has a dark side which this novel taps into well.

The Hive explores our darkest fears of the relationship between social media and mental health, and the strength of sisterhood against all the odds.

The use of social media makes the story more relevant in some way as almost every reader will relate to it, especially the inclusion of sections that displays commentaries by the followers on what is going on in Charlotte’s life. Some are kind and some are cruel, but they are all detached from the reality of her situation. The Hive shows how social media can damage mental health, and how destructive a peer group can be when loyalty becomes an obsession.

Made up almost entirely of dialogue and nipping between characters, this is a quick and frenzied read at times, with extracts from the comments section on The Hive to ensure that the reader knows exactly what the world is thinking about Charlotte, and about Lincoln.

The book is cleverly structured in a way that grabs the reader’s attention from the first page, this is not an easy achievement for our time where the majority of people have a short attention span due to social media that has programmed our brains to focus for less than four minutes. The reader can almost feel the pain and suffering of the female characters but none of them are likable, not even Charlotte, the flaws and questionable choices that these women make, allow the reader to see them as normal humans with faults but its hard to relate to any of them. 

The Hive can’t be claimed to be a great literature, but it is an original and extremely addictive, it’s a compulsive read that most will finish within two days and enjoy by the thrilling shock factor in every aspect of the novel, though there are sections that seem to be very far fetched.

If you are looking for a summer read then The Hive should be on your list. We have given it 6 out of 10.

Scarlett Brade is the daughter of parents who migrated from the Caribbean to England in the early 1970s. She was born and educated in London, though as a child she spent her summers in Canada, where she developed her love affair with reading. When not writing Scarlett spends most of her time cooking, drinking fine wines, and entertaining family and friends. The Hive is her first psychological thriller novel, and she is currently writing her second.

The Hive is published by Zaffre