About 10 years ago I stumbled across an author I had never come across before, Sharon Bolton (aka S. J. Bolton) and have been reading her books ever since. That first book I read of hers was Now You See Me, the first book in the wonderfully thrilling Lacey Flint series (there are currently five novels in the Lacey Flint series). I loved the creative storytelling and style of writing of Sharon Bolton and quickly worked my way through the series and then on to her standalone novels. I think I have read 11 of her 15 novels so far and thoroughly enjoyed them all. A few weeks ago, I picked up her debut novel, Sacrifice (published in 2008), and what a spellbinding and bone-chilling story it is.
Sacrifice is a story inspired by an ancient legend set in the northernmost region of the UK, the Shetland Islands, or just Shetland. Shetland is an island group at the northern tip of Scotland (about 110 miles from mainland Scotland).
Tora Hamiliton is an obstetrician and has just moved to the remote Shetland with her husband. One rainy afternoon she has a difficult task to do, burying one of her beloved horses in the peaty soil on their land. As she starts to dig, she makes a very gruesome discovery, the soil isn’t going to be the final resting place for her horse as there is already the perfectly preserved body of a young woman there – a body with her heart brutally removed and missing and strange rune marks carved into her back – clearly a case of murder and sacrifice.
The strange rune marks are very similar to carvings she has in her cellar and has seen around the island. As she is interested in how the young woman came to be murdered and buried in her field, she starts to poke around and uncovers a very disturbing link to a Shetland folklore legend, the Kunal-Trow. The police, her smooth-talking boss and even her own husband are at pains to persuade her to leave well alone. Needless to say, she doesn’t.
As she starts to delve deeper into the past and the legend of the Trows, threats are made and bizarre accidents start to happen – it seems someone wants Tora out of the picture, once and for all. With the police seemingly not that interested she doesn’t know who she can turn to for help.
Overall, Sacrifice is an outstanding exciting and thrilling story of myth, legend, bizarre rituals, murder and a very large cover up in a very beautiful and remote setting.
The story is excellent. Intriguing with many layers that are slowly revelled, ratchetting up the tension suitably and cleverly towards an exciting finale. Just when you think you have everything figured out, you need to have a rethink. A beautifully told tale where you are swept along with this fascinating story.
The characters are excellent. Tora is a strong, tenacious and independent character and despite not coming across as the most interesting or likeable of main characters to begin with really grows into the story. Then there are the enigmatic characters of DS Dana Tulloch, Kenn Gifford (Tora’s boss at the hospital) and her husband Duncan who all add mystery and panache to the story. Tora doesn’t know who to trust and neither does the reader.
The story mixes ancient island folklore, myth and legend with a modern day medical mystery and creates a unique and thrilling story that you can’t stop reading, you just need to find out more and more before you can put the book down. Despite murder and missing hearts, it is a terrifying tale of powerful men who think they are above the law. Whilst at times it is not 100% realistic (it is fiction after all, one that deals with myth and legend), with Tora’s bravery stretched to a limit beyond her limits, it is an excellent story with a terrifying reason behind the terrible events.
I love novels by Sharon Bolton and I adored Sacrifice. I thought that it was a story with a gripping, exciting, fast moving plot with strong characters and plenty of tension, twists and turns. The remote Shetland setting added a superb atmospheric backdrop to an already chilling tale.
An adventurous murder mystery set in the present but based on the myths and legends of island folklore that are deeply rooted in its ancient history. A very exciting and thrilling read.
RRP: £9.99 (Paperback) / £4.99 (Kindle)