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Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton


It may have been a long while since my last post, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading. Recently for a couple days I was reading three books at once which doesn't usually bode well for me--this often means one or two get pushed aside in favor of finishing the one that sucks me in, never to return to the other two. However, I did finish one of the three: Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake; I made a push one evening to finish reading the entire last half of the book. I thought maybe the ending would make it worth it. I was wrong. It has an interesting concept: a girl discovers on her ninth birthday that she can taste in the food she eats the emotions of the person who prepared it. There is also her brother and his mysterious secret that was not resolved to my satisfaction and her father's avoidance of hospitals at all costs issue that was kind of pointless. I've also been reading a book about royalty and their salacious scandals. Very interesting, but it's taken a back seat to Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost. This post isn't really about any of those; instead it's about an awesome, newly discovered author called S.J. Bolton who hails from Britain and how I sacrificed my Saturday to read her debut novel.

Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton takes place on Britain's Shetland Islands, which lay far to the north of Great Britain. The islands and their folklore are a major character in the story.

While digging a grave for her beloved horse, Tora Hamilton unearths the corpse of a woman from the peat bog. It's a find that is not at all unusual until the nail polish on the corpse's fingers and toe nails reveals that the woman's brutal death occurred far too recently for the corpse to be a hundreds years old archaeological find like similar corpses dug up in other peat bogs. Before long Tora is pulled into the police investigation, and it becomes clear through her own research and detective work that those who cruelly cut out the bog victim's heart are deeply embedded in Shetland's social and governmental infrastructures and who also happen to be members of a sick and twisted ritualistic cult that believes its heritage descends directly from creatures of Shetland legend and lore.

The most important questions for Tora are what happened to the baby the bog victim delivered a week before she died? How many other women have fallen victim to this cult, and who else belongs to the cult? Who can she trust with her discoveries, to bring justice for the victims, and to shut down the cult?

This is a heart pounding, page turning, terrifying thriller that's difficult to put down. The fascinating historical and social detail that makes Shetland its own character in the novel, the wickedly twisted resolution, and a story that takes several shocking turns all contribute to the thrill ride that is Sacrifice. I've already put requests in for Bolton's next two books.

I highly recommend this novel, but be warned: it's not for the faint of heart or for those who don't have a large chunk of uninterrupted time in which to read it!

--reviewed by Ms. Angie

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