It is my spot on the blog tour for Sanctuary by VV James which releases in paperback tomorrow (2nd April 2020).
About the book
Sanctuary. It’s the perfect town. . . to hide a secret.
The star quarterback’s death was a tragic accident.
Those rumours about his ex-girlfriend? Local gossip.
Detective Maggie Knight thinks she has it all figured out.
The small town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend, Harper, was there when he died.
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching.
About the author
V.V. James is the author (as Vic James) of the contemporary fantasy trilogy Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, and Bright Ruin. Gilded Cage is a 2018 World Book Night pick and a Radio 2 Book Club selection. V.V. worked as an investigative producer for Channel 4 News and now directs documentaries for BBC1 and BBC2.
What I Thought
I had been really struggling with reading since the covid crisis so I put aside plenty of time to read this for the blog tour, but thankfully I ended up whipping through it.
The chapters were generally short and pacy which really helped but the premise was so good and the characters and plot intriguing. If you have any interest in the Salem witch trials and/or crime fiction you are going to want to read this.
Told in multiple points of view mainly from 3 adult women. Abigail – mother of the deceased, Sarah – town witch and mother of the accused and Maggie – detective.
In this world after the witch trials, witches were embedded into the fabric of America but under strict social control, having to register, banned from performing certain spells or using certain texts. The use of magic in a crime increases the severity of the punishment and evidence gained from magical means is inadmissible in trial.
The idea of a coven being between one witch and other non magical women who can loan their energy was fresh and added an extra layer to the uncertainty about what had happened. The secrets and lies between the women begin to unravel not only their friendship but society as a whole. The small town setting added to the claustrophobic atmosphere with everyone interconnected. The relationships were complex and nuanced.
There is an uneasy acceptance of witches in society, hate crime against witches being outlawed but clearly bubbling below. Trust is easily broken and fear stoked up and fuelled by the sorrow of losing a high school quarterback. Football being it’s own religion in certain quarters.
At its heart this was a murder mystery, a who or what done it and why, and I managed to guess at some aspects but not the whole. And this made it a hugely satisfying pay off. The gradual hints at and unfurling of a prior mystery were also so intricately plotted and made this a compelling page turner.
There was so much incidental diversity included. It was a breath of fresh air when a non binary character was introduced who was initially mis-pronouned. But once the character was corrected they simply used the correct pronouns without it being an issue at all.
Ironically towards the end of the book the town gets put into a quarantine because of a “sickness”. But don’t let that parallel with what’s going on in the world put you off. This is a clever and insightful take on a number of contemporary issues. I’ll leave you to learn the lessons of the witches. Something given for something gotten.
For fans of The Crucible, Practical Magic, Witches of East End and Asking For It. Trigger warning for rape and some grotesque moments. Adult.
Thanks to Orion for the paperback copy for the purposes of an honest review. The hardback edition came in Illumicrate. Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour.
I reviewed the first book by Nicola – The Hidden Bones – last year and now the series has its own name. “Hills and Barbrook” after the two main archeology characters.
The Lost Shrine can be read as a stand alone although there are mentions to some of the events in book one, and an unfinished thread to move us forward. Clare, David and Jo, and others are back and already they feel familiar. There’s also some new characters including a local druid who makes things – interesting.
Clare is let loose leading her own dig in the Cotswolds, one their unit needs the money from to stay afloat. They’ve been hired by a commercial property developer to disprove the theory of the previous site lead. At least that’s what he’s hoping. The ethics of such a job is explored really well, especially when the neighbourhood is against the development too.
The police are back too. Sally, David’s other half is back in Salisbury heading up a murder investigation, the ladies in this series definitely have their work cut out for them. And is Mark Stone in the Cotswolds a help, a hindrance, or something more? Was the previous site lead’s death really a macabre suicide?
As with the previous book the tension grows throughout from a Time Team style dig (loved the drone operator’s nickname) to English country crime thriller. Hills and Barbrook have settled in with book two and I’m with them for the journey.
I was gifted a copy by the publisher for the purposes of this honest review.
The Lost Shrine is our now and ebook readers are in luck because the book is available for a mere 99p this week. Go dig it up.