S.J. Bolton: Sacrifice (2008)

Danielle recently wrote about S.J. Bolton’s book Now You See Me and I really liked the tone of it and wanted to read one of her books. I got her first novel Sacrifice instead because I liked the idea of a book set on The Shetland Islands. I know some of the islands off the Scottish coast and I find the landscape incredibly beautiful.

Tora, an obstetrician from London, is married to a man from The Shetland Islands. Duncan hasn’t been living on the islands for over twenty years but now he wants to return and Tora follows him. She has found a job in a local clinic. They live in a house in the country, quite far away from any other houses or farms which doesn’t bother Tora too much as she grew up on a horse farm.

The novel opens with Tora trying to bury her beloved horse Jamie. While digging in the field she finds something utterly disturbing, namely a corpse wrapped in fabric. Whether the dead person has been lying in its peat grave since the earliest days of Shetland Civilization or been buried recently isn’t sure at first but the police soon find out, the body hasn’t been dead for longer than two years. When they unwrap the corpse they discover something quite grisly. The dead womans heart has ben cut out and there are runic symbols carved into the skin of her back. On top of that the dead woman must have given birth right before she was killed.

Tora is a very determined woman and the shock to find a body on her land triggers an urge to help find the killer. Being a doctor allows her to have access to much more information than even the police. She teams up with a police woman, Dana, also a foreigner, who has a hard time being accepted by the locals. The two women start to dig quite deep into some mysterious things. Tora’s investigation isn’t entirely legal but she can’t stop it, even less when she discovers that the dental records of a woman who has died of cancer two years ago match the records of the dead body in her peat field.

From the early moments in the novel, it’s obvious that Tora endangers herself with this investigation. And when she wakes one night and thinks that someone is in her bedroom, she is sure her life is threatened.

The fact that Tora lives in this lonely house on her own most of the time, because Duncan is away for work, heightens the feeling of threat. She and Dana stumble from one eerie discovery to the next and I really speeded through the 550 pages because I wanted to find out what was going on.

This is a book to read in almost one sitting, if you break the speed for a while, which I did, you lose momentum and the end might not go down so well. I saw Danielle reviewed Sacrifice here as well and there is a comment from the author saying that she herself wasn’t too sure about the ending (if you intend to read this book don’t read the authors’ comment it does give away a lot).

I can only say, this is a great read, if you rush through it but a part of the explanation was a disappointment for me. It’s too unbelievable. Still, the book works well on many levels. It’s very suspenseful and has a great atmosphere. Something I really liked was the description of the friendship between Tora and Dana. They both do not easily trust other people but they soon feel quite close. Also these are not your typical “women in jeopardy”, they are threatened but they are gutsy and can fight for themselves. Being threatened worries them but doesn’t keep them from going on. I might very well read another S.J. Bolton. Judging from the comment she left on Danielle’s blog, I could imagine, she did in her more recent books stay away from stretching believability too much.

23 thoughts on “S.J. Bolton: Sacrifice (2008)

  1. Great cover. I liked the sound of this a lot at first, but then as the review continued I found myself agreeing with the ‘unbelievable’ comment and I didn’t even read the book. I will check out the author though to see if I can something else interesting

    • The cover is great. At least we have to grant her that she did have her doubts as well. She does create suspense nicely and the atmosphere is well done. I’m not sure if Danielle liked the later ones better but it’s very possible.

  2. Seeing the cover, I can almost hear the deep voice of a man doing the voiceover on a trailer of an American action movie.
    I sounded great at the beginning of your review and then not so great. It brought back the recent Fitzek in mind.

    • It has like a double explanation at the end, and one part works very well while the other didn’t.
      I could still imagine it’s better than the Fitzek. But to know for sure I would have to read him and I’m not in the mood yet.

  3. Nice review, Caroline! It looks like S.J.Bolton is an exciting new thriller writer. I will look for this book in the library. I love racy books once in a while.

    • Thanks, Vishy. That’s exactly what I thought, it’s really a book to rush through and that was just what I was in the mood for now. I hope you will like it. It’s quite suspenseful.

  4. I love the review – I’ve long been meaning to read S J Bolton, but I am a little uncertain about the lack of plausibility. I actually find this to be a problem with many contemporary crime novels. I think publishers demand highly sensationalised scenarios and the only way the writer can pull them off is with a bizarre explanation. In every recent crime novel I’ve read there’s a moment when I roll my eyes and start to feel that the plot is excessive. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them up to that point though! 🙂

    • Thanks, Litlove. That was the case here. It was really fun while it lasted but tere was a lot of eye rolling towards the end. But she does a fw things very well.
      This is probabaly the reason why I prefer those crime novels that focus on charcater and motive more than on who has committed the crime. I find the latter category to rely too much on the highly improbabale.

  5. Her books are very entertaining and definitely page turners, but the endings are very often a little over the top. So whether you’ll like her books depends on how much you are willing to stretch your imagination. Her most recent is perhaps the most realistic in terms of the action though with a modern day Jack the Ripper the story is again somewhat sensational. I’m generally a pretty forgiving reader and don’t mind an occasional over the top sort of story, though I do need to be in the right mood for it. I’m glad you liked the story otherwise. I think she is publishing a sequel to Now You See me next year.

    • I was not disappointed while reading it at all. I had to stop for a while which is never ideal with crime and which made me more critical but I would still recommend her and am glad I discovered her. It’s just important to say for those who don’t like sensational at all. But Jack the Ripper is a theme where I’m very forgiving….

  6. I’ve read this one and Blood Harvest. While I enjoyed reading them well enough, I had distinct problems with both in the believability department. I did find myself critical while reading, though, especially in the latter half of each book.

  7. Great review, I am intrigued. The body is the one that intrigued me the most…without a heart and symbols on her. It made wonder what had happened.

    Read in one sitting, is that even possible? How many pages ir this book?

    • Thanks Novroz. I was adopting her sensationalist style, 550 pages in one sitting is a lot. 🙂 I just meant it’s the type of book you have to read fast and not think too much whether it is possible or not.
      I think you would have liked it. It’s very gripping. It has a bit of a horror element although the explanation is not supernatural at all.
      Maybe one should see it as a genre blend.

    • I found it great that she shared her thoughts and soemhow courageous that she went for that ending despite the fact that it’s not totally believable. It’s how she thought it should be and for many readers it did work.

  8. Pingback: S. J. Bolton: Now You See Me (2011) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  9. Pingback: S. J. Bolton: Dead Scared (2012) | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  10. Pingback: Best Books 2014 | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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