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Sanctuary by VV James – Blog Tour Book Review

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.

She’s wrong.

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.

The Lost Shrine by Nicola Ford – Book Review

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.

Digging Up Bone,Digging Up Secrets – Guest Post by Nicola Ford for The Hidden Bones Blog Tour

I’m delighted to be hosting a guest post by author of the The Hidden Bones Nicola Ford. Nicola is a real life archaeologist and has used the adage “Write what you know” to share a thrilling mystery with us. I’m just over half way through (and needing to know what happens!!!) and will share my thoughts soon. But for today let’s hear from Nicola.

Digging Up Bone, Digging Up Secrets

The dead can tell fascinating tales if you know how to listen. It’s a truth at the heart of many modern murder investigations. And it’s also central to the way Clare Hills, David Barbrook and their team of archaeologists in the Hidden Bones go about their work.

Twenty first century forensic science draws heavily on the techniques employed by today’s archaeologists. So important is it to police investigations that over the past two decades forensic archaeology has become a discipline in its own right. A discipline that has not only introduced archaeologists into police inquiries, but to the investigation of war crimes, and the aftermath of major disasters. And those techniques have revolutionised what we can learn about the lives of individuals who lived and died, in some cases, many centuries ago.

In the Hidden Bones the ability of Californian osteo-archaeologist Dr Jo Granksi to read the remains of the dead reveals secrets both ancient and modern. The scientific techniques that she applies are approaches that I rely on in my day job as the National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. As an archaeologist I’ve sometimes been called upon to investigate the scenes of ancient killings. And it’s that experience that I draw upon in my crime writing.

I worked on a Bronze Age enclosure site at Velim in the Czech Republic that contained the remains of over a hundred people who’d died over three thousand years ago. Some were adults – men and women – but the vast majority were children. Skulls and parts of skeletons had been strewn across the site, and thrown into ditches. Whether we’re archaeologists working on the skeleton of a child killed millennia ago or forensic archaeologists working as part of a scene of crime team we want to answer the same questions. Who were they? How did they live? How did they die, and why?

When Velim was first discovered there was a raft of theories about what had happened here. Had the site been attacked? Were these the victims of warfare? Some of the remains were disarticulated. Could they have been victims of cannibalism?

That’s where meticulous excavation and the work of the osteo-archaeologists applying the same approaches as Jo Granski come in. Many of the people who died at Velim had been subjected to severe head trauma which was visible on the crania. But there were repeated patterns in the fracturing of the limb bones too. And the wear and disarticulation on some of the bones, taken with a host of other evidence gathered by the bone specialists suggests that the children that I excavated, and their companions, were the victims of ritualised sacrifice.

The past worlds I unearth as an archaeologist can sometimes prove to have been dark and dangerous places. But the present too has its shadowy secrets. And it’s some of those secrets that I dig deep to reveal in the Hidden Bones.

Synopsis

Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.

Huge thanks to Nicola and to Ailsa from Allison & Busby for my review copy. Do check out the other posts on the tour and come back soon for my review.

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