SACRIFICE by S.J. Bolton

Published by Corgi, an imprint of Transworld.

The first of my Crime Caper challenge books from Transworld and what a great place to start.

Set in the Shetland Isles and full of its myths and lore, Sacrifice is one of those crime novels where the mystery is two-fold.  There’s the crime itself and then there’s what is the real cause of the crime.

I don’t want to give away too much about this one, as the large part of its charm is the fact that the reader and the central character, consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton, are both kept constantly unnerved as to whether the evil acts that seem to have been perpetrated are by human hands or by something even more sinister or possibly supernatural.

In parts I found the book to be akin to some works by Mo Hayder, with its mythology constantly in the background through village rumours and superstitions about the surroundings and the possibility that the shadowy grey men, or Trows, that some speak of, might actually be real and responsible for acts thought at first to be by the hands of mortal men.

The story opens with Tora making a grisly discovery on her own land whilst trying to bury one of her horses – she unearths a woman’s body.  The body is that of Melissa – but if it is Melissa then there is a further mystery as she died much much earlier and was laid to rest in the usual way at the time.

The body also features runic symbols cut into her back – matching symbols in the basement of Tora’s own home – and her heart has been removed as well.

Investigation by Tora and the police begins to unveil a series of unexplained disappearances over the years – women who have gone missing and a suspicion that the Tronal maternity clinic may be involved.  There’s talk of hypnotic powers amongst a group of powerful men, of possible baby selling and abortions that may have not been necessary and all the while there is the talk of legends, ‘legends with a kernel of truth buried within them’.

It’s a claustrophobic tale, despite the open islands setting with walls appearing to be closing in on the central character with alarming frequency as the possible scenarios for what has really happened in the area begin to open up and then close upon her.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sacrifice – would make for a perfect read in a remote hideaway somewhere, as long as you know and can trust those around you whilst you lose yourself in the story.

Can’t wait to read S.J. Bolton’s second novel, Awakening, now.

Keith B Walters

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