Book Review / Nicole Barrell

Nicole Barrell | The Sham

The Book:

The Sham by Nicole Barrell
Published September 2023 by Woodhall Press

Torrie’s Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Plot (Goodreads):

After the harrowing deaths of her parents on Cape Cod, reclusive 20-something Margo Sharpe lives alone in a crap apartment in South Boston. One problem: she can’t afford it. So she rents her spare bedroom to Lucy Somers, a shy, allergic-to-everything schoolteacher. At first, they peacefully coexist; Margo keeps Lucy at arm’s length. But Lucy starts to ask questions about Margo’s past. Too many questions.

Then, money goes missing. Relationships are hijacked. Dead rats appear all over the house. And it becomes clear, far too late, that Margo chose…poorly.

The Sham is a darkly funny, head-spinning game of cat and mouse, a nightmare union based on obsession and revenge–a sham. Because neither woman is who she seems. Who is Lucy Somers, and what exactly does she want?

And who, for that matter, is Margo Sharpe?

How Did The Sham End?

Click here for book spoilers for The Sham
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The Sham, I suggest you turn back now.

This book tried to confuse the reader about who the “bad guy” or “crazy girl” truly was. But ultimately, Lucy turns out to be unstable.

Margo Sharpe is really Maggie Nevins. Her parents were killed 7 years ago by their next door neighbor, Dan Ellis. Dan and her mother were briefly involved (her parents were swingers), but eventually her mother tried to end things, and Dan just wouldn’t take no for an answer. He killed both of Maggie/Margo parents and committed suicide.

Maggie/Margo had seen her mother with Dan and could tell he was creepy, so she began harassing him through texts and phone calls about leaving her mother and their family alone. Maggie/Margo also replaced his medication with laxatives. He had significant mental illness and changing his medication made him exceptionally unstable. He was hearing things and got wrapped up in CIA/FBI conspiracies of his own creation. This led him to commit the murders.

Dan had two children.

Brad was his son whom he had pictures of in his house next to Maggie/Margo’s family. Brad lived with his mother and had little to no contact with Dan. Maggie/Margo developed a crush on Brad as a child that developed into a fantasy. She bought her house to be close him and pretended to be in a relationship with him. In reality, Brad had no clue who Maggie/Margo was.

Lucy was his daughter and the product of him raping Lucy’s mother. After the rape, Lucy’s mother ran away and quickly met and married Lucy’s step-dad Gary. Lucy grew up believing that Gary was her real father. Around age 30, when Lucy did an ancestry test, she learned that Gary wasn’t her father. When her mother told her the truth, she also learned that her father Dan had sent her a chest of belongings before his death, 7 years earlier. Her mother had never opened it, but kept it hidden.

In the chest is proof of Maggie/Margo’s harassment of Dan. And the swapped pill bottle. Dan must have had some lucidity where he sent this to Lucy. Once Lucy learned all of this, she is determined to get justice on Dan’s behalf, and she believes that she needs Brad to press charged against Maggie/Margo to gain justice. As part of this plan, Lucy gets close to Maggie/Margo by becoming her roommate, and her torments her with rodents, stealing her money, getting her investigated at work, and much more. Lucy becomes more and more unhinged throughout the book, and it results in her attacking Maggie/Margo. Maggie/Margo only survives because she had covered the house in flowers, which Lucy was very allergic to.

Brad agrees to help Lucy at first, and is happy to have a half-sister. Later, he realizes she needs help mentally, and he stops working with her. At the very end of the book, Maggie/Margo and Brad are being interviewed for a podcast, and Maggie/Margo traps him in a lie. It is revealed that he is actually a conman who embezzled from his job and owes his friends money.

The book closes with Maggie/Margo visiting Lucy in the hospital. She is being treated for her mental illness and and Maggie/Margo has agreed to not press charges.

Torrie’s Review

Thanks to Nicole Barrell for the free, advanced copy of The Sham – and the book is signed and came with a personal note! This hasn’t affected my review at all.

This book has likely secured a place among my top 10 reads of the year! It was an engaging read and one of the fastest I’ve devoured in recent months. Initially the first few chapters appeared somewhat predictable: the main character carried a mysterious secret, and the supporting characters seemed to be harboring their own hidden truths. However, it was the unexpected explanations and the intriguing journey to those resolutions that hooked me.

As the story unfolded, it took me on a twisty path, shattering my early assumptions. The narrative was filled with surprising revelations, and interesting characters who were well established. While there were moments that ventured too far from believability, they didn’t overshadow the overall narrative.

In conclusion, “The Sham” by Nicole Barrell is a fascinating read that made it hard to put this book down. My only hesitation was the depiction and use of mental health – the ending made the approach acceptable, but I think it could have been addressed a bit better. If you’re seeking a fast-paced, riveting narrative with complex characters, “The Sham” is a must-read.

P.S. I’ve created a Bookstagram! Come follow me @thousandbooklives on Instagram

We're trying to grow our mailing list. If you join us and stick around, you will automatically be entered into two giveaways as a token of our thanks. And that's just the start!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *