Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
In a nutshell: obstetrician/gynaecologist Tora Hamilton moves to the Shetland Isles, the original home of her hubbie, where both pursue new developments in their respective careers. One day, Tora, a keen horse lover and rider, has a dead horse on her hands and decides to bury it herself, against legalities. As she digs deeper, she comes across a corpse buried in her land. The corpse proves to be the body of a woman who had recently given birth. She was brutally murdered with her heart removed. If that wasn’t bad enough, at the post mortem, rune marks are found etched into the skin of her back, marks that Tora can see on the wall in her own cellar…
In short, this a mixture of a mystery, thriller and woman-in-jeopardy novel within the genre. Tora, who dropped the "h" from "Thora", is your typical young (in her 30s) doctor: high energy and always up for a challenge, with an extensive and intensive curiosity that drives her. It’s understandable she’d want to lose the stairlift connotations that come with the added "h" in her name…
Tora embarks on her own investigation alongside the police, being wary of them at first. But then she makes a personal connection to a female police officer and they work in tandem. Said female police officer can’t trust those she’s working with (the "why" is part of the plot) and Tora can’t trust anyone by the middle of the novel. The investigation becomes personal to Tora because of her own actions and because of her circumstances and her role on the Shetland Isles.
This novel is a page turner for which I sought the end vigorously, written in the first person with a jaunty, swift style. However, it also contained a pet hate of mine: a police investigation but with the protagonist (outsider) finding that things get personal. For the average reader I believe it has too much distracting medical detail, sometimes reading like a transcript of a case conference or a set of patient’s notes. Developments in relationships over timelines sometimes felt jolting.
But, as I said, it’s a page turner and I couldn’t wait for the end.
S. J. Bolton’s next novel gives Tora a rest after all her stresses in Sacrifice and will feature a vet. I look forward to reading what she does with that.