As a reviewer for the HNR Blog, together with all the critiques I do, I think I am suffering from something called Reviewer's Fatigue. It takes a lot for a book to grab me, but I found one this week in Sacrifice, by Sharon J Bolton, and had to share this one.
I couldn't believe this was a debut novel, the writing is slick, compelling and the main character drew me in from the first page. Even with its understone of dark secrets and evil, the author instills some great humour in the thoughts of the narrator.
Tora Guthrie is an obstetrician whose husband, Duncan has brought them back to his home Island of Shetland to live after a twenty year absence. Duncan buys an ancient stone house with fascinating rune carvings in the cellar, and Tora finds a job in the local hospital.
Things begin to go wrong when Tora accidentally digs up the body of a local woman on her land. Wrapped in linen and buried in peat, this was no ordinary death, for the woman's heart was removed while she still lived, and there are strange rune carvings on her back. Worse, evidence shows she has recently given birth.
Against all local advice, and downright violent discouragement, Tora involves herself in the investigation with the help of Dana Tulloch, a police inspector and lone wolf, who feels as she does, that something is going on in Shetland that needs exposiing.
Tora does some digging of her own and discovers the legend of the 'Trows' who bury their dead in 'dark, fertile soil' and things take a sinister turn. And what exactly does take place on the island of Tronal across the bay?
Tora is pulled in all directions until she doesn't know whom she can trust, even her own husband and in-laws. As Dana says, 'They are all blonde Vikings here' and everyone appears involved.
Then Dana commits suicide, or does she? and Tora comes face to face with what is happening - but she is alone and powerless to stop it. Or is she?
This was a real page turner and I couldn't put it down until I got to the end. In fact there was so much action I was exhausted for poor Tora, whose determination against all the odds is remarkable. Even a little unbelievable at times, but what a worthy heroine!