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4.2 16
by Sharon Bolton, S. J. Bolton

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In this masterful debut that starts off as a mystery and becomes much more, Tora Hamilton is an outsider at her new home on the rocky, windswept Shetland Islands, a hundred miles from the northeastern tip of Scotland. Though her husband grew up here, it's the first time he's been back in twenty years. Digging in the peat on their new property, Tora unearths a human


In this masterful debut that starts off as a mystery and becomes much more, Tora Hamilton is an outsider at her new home on the rocky, windswept Shetland Islands, a hundred miles from the northeastern tip of Scotland. Though her husband grew up here, it's the first time he's been back in twenty years. Digging in the peat on their new property, Tora unearths a human body, at first glance a centuries-old bog body, interesting but not uncommon. But realizing that the body is in fact much newer, that the woman's heart has been cut out, and that she was killed within a few days of bearing a child, Tora, herself an obstetrician, becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her—even when the police, her colleagues, and eventually her husband warn her against getting involved.

Sacrifice is a bone-chilling, spellbinding debut about secrets worth killing for that will grip readers from its beginning to its startling end.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The page-turner of the summer . . . Extraordinary.” —The Denver Post

“A chilling story . . . The plot never loses interest, the setting is beautiful . . . and the characters are well drawn. This is S. J. Bolton's first book. I hope it's the first of many.” —The Charlotte Observer

“Brilliant plot with mythic overtones. . . . This promising new talent delivers some profound insights into the eternal nature of evil.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publishers Weekly

Set in the Shetland Islands, Bolton's compelling debut pits young obstetrician Tora Hamilton, newly arrived from London, against local Nordic folklore, suspicious islanders and a monstrous but brilliant plot with mythic overtones. While digging a hole in a field for her dead saddle horse, Tora discovers a young woman's corpse, with Viking runes incised in the back and the heart torn from the breast. How long the body has been buried is uncertain, but during the autopsy Tora realizes the victim had recently given birth. Longing for a child of her own, Tora dissects away layer after layer of deceit and deception involving everyone she used to trust, especially her husband, Duncan Guthrie, who grew up on the Shetlands and chose the site of their new home. Though Bolton's operating-theater realities and her characters' powerfully inhuman motivations may jar fainthearted sensibilities, this promising new talent delivers some profound insights into the eternal nature of evil. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Obstetrician Tora Hamilton has just moved with her husband to the Shetland Islands. While digging in the yard of her new home, she uncovers the body of a woman whose heart was cut out shortly after she had given birth. As Tora's curiosity draws her into the ensuing murder investigation, she finds some bizarre connections between the unidentified woman's death and a local folktale involving "Kunal trows"-supernatural males who steal and impregnate women who then give birth to sons and die. Of course, Tora knows that trows don't really exist. But if she isn't on to something, then why is someone trying to kill her? And is her increasingly distant husband somehow involved in whatever is happening on the islands? Bolton's debut thriller starts out promisingly with an exotic setting, a bright, engaging heroine, and an intriguing folktale brought to life and turned sinister. Unfortunately, the author is unable to deliver fully on her fascinating premise, and the plot feels contrived and lacks plausibility. Recommended with reservations for larger mystery collections. [Library marketing campaign.]
—Jane la Plante

Kirkus Reviews
Digging a grave for a favorite horse, an obstetrician on one of the Shetland Islands uncovers a shockingly mutilated corpse, a discovery that will take her into the depths of local legend and scandal, putting both her and her rather shaky marriage in mortal peril. The corpse in the opening of Bolton's debut thriller has been fairly well preserved in the local peat moss, but the woman is not one of those National Geographic mummies from the ice age. Stubborn young obstetric surgeon Tora Hamilton has the medical skills to see that the dead woman's toenails have a bit of polish unavailable to Pleistocene gals. It takes no medical degree, however, to notice that the heart has been ripped out of the body. Then the postmortem reveals that the victim had delivered a child within a couple of weeks of her death. Oh, and someone has carved runic figures into her back. Tora's handsome husband Duncan, a Shetland native whose new business brought the couple to the isolated chain of islands between Scotland and Norway, is out of town, and Tora, a bit dizzied by the grizzly findings, is further dizzied by the animal magnetism of Kenn Gifford, her recently returned but hitherto unseen superior at the local hospital. Gifford is one of a number of brawny Shetlanders who are physical throwbacks to the Vikings, who once held the islands, but he has considerably more polish. Fighting off the Nordic charisma, Tora, whose childless marriage is in the doldrums, turns her energies to clearing up the murder. Assisted by attractive lesbian detective sergeant Dana Tulloch, she stumbles on a pattern of mysterious deaths, and even more mysterious births, and learns that her husband and his chilly parents, as well asnearly everyone in authority on the island, is in it up to their necks. Lots of rather swoony thrills and escapes, complete with those cute Shetland ponies. Agent: Anne Marie Doulton/Ampersand Agency

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.04(d)

Meet the Author

SHARON BOLTON grew up in Lancashire, England, and now lives near Oxford with her family. Sacrifice, her first novel, was inspired by her fascination with British folklore. Sharon Bolton was previously published as S.J. Bolton.

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Sacrifice 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
momcatj More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you discovered a body? Would you check for a pulse? Faint? Run? Call the police? Tora Hamilton has said she didn't know what she would do. She gets the chance to find out. It's already been a dreadful day. Rainy, which isn't unusual in the Shetland Islands, but also the day she has to bury Jamie, her beloved horse. She could wait, but she can't bear the idea of what the scavengers will do to his body. So she gets on the mini-excavator and starts digging down through the peat when she sees a linen wrapped bundle. . . and a human foot. The local police chief thinks they've found another one of those ancient burial sites in which the peat has preserved the victim. Certainly the whole site has that feel to it, especially when it's discovered that the victim's heart has been removed from her chest and three runic symbols have been carved into the body. He's all for calling in the archaeologists. Tora begs to differ. It's not based on her training as a consultant surgeon. It's just that she doesn't believe ancient peoples wore lacquer nail polish. Thus begins one of the better thrillers I've read lately, filled with twists and turns that builds to a stunning conclusion. Along with Tora, I wasn't sure who was to be trusted: just when I thought I knew I was proven wrong. Or was I? The setting is extremely well done; Bolton manages to make you feel you really are in the Shetlands, describing the people, the place and the history in painless bites. You can almost see the wild beauty of the Islands along with a sense of the glorious and somewhat frightening isolation, feel the waves pounding against the shorelines and see the puffins and Arctic Skua. The characters are also well developed, especially Tora who isn't your standard beautiful damsel in distress type so beloved of most thrillers. She is one of those prickly, no nonsense sorts whom you might not like at all in real life, though to her credit she realizes she's not exactly a "people person." She's just not certain what to do about it. How do other people manage to create an instant rapport? She also has a strong sense of justice and objects to it being subverted, making her prone to challenging authority. She does take some risks, but she does so with a full realization of the danger involved-a refreshing change from some characters who rush in where angels fear to tread and then wonder how they ended up in such a precarious situation. Other interesting characters; Kenn, Tora's boss who can charm people and horses with equal ease; Duncan, Tora's handsome and adored but often absent husband, who was born and raised in the Islands; and the equally prickly Dana Tulloch, one of the police investigators who seems to suspect that Tora knows more than she's telling. I was fascinated by the folklore of the area, when I wasn't hastily turning pages to find out what happened next. The fact that it's a first novel makes it all the more impressive.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Excited but a bit apprehensive obstetrician Dr. Tora Hamilton leaves London with her husband Duncan Guthrie, to open up a practice near his hometown on the Shetland Islands. When her horse dies, Tora starts to dig a grave to bury her steed. However, her shoveling uncovers the corpse of a young woman. Runes are etched onto the victim¿s back and her heart ripped from her chest.----------------- The autopsy also reveals the woman recently gave birth. Unable to resist Tora investigates trying to learn who the woman is, what happened to the child, why this seemingly ritual homicide, and by whom. No one cooperates not even her spouse, who warns her to back off from her inquires. As she gets closer to the truth, Tora becomes frightened that she could be next victim and begins to trust no one especially Duncan.------------------ This is a deep amateur sleuth with local mythos and a hint of the supernatural making for a compelling tale that is mindful in many ways of the 1973 version of The Wicker Man especially as Tora begins to uncover the motive. Readers will be spellbound by the islanders who resent the outsider¿s inquiries into their lives and belief system. Vivid in detail including some stomach turning sequences, SACRIFICE is definitely not a sacrifice to read as SJ Bolton provides a powerful look at the essence of inhumanity, which humanity would insist is pure evil.--------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a page turner! Interesting story and the descriptions of the Shetland Islands got me curious so I googled them. Gorgeous pictures. Highly recommend this book.
AlbertG More than 1 year ago
SJ Bolton is quickly becoming one of my favorite mystery writers. Her novels are gritty, well researched and move briskly from page to page. Bolton has that uncanny ability of taking a tense palpable moment and putting it directly into your heart where you breathe and feel right along with the protaganist. Sacrifice is Bolton's first novel and when compared to the later works it is easy to see the growth in prose and in feel of the writing but don't misunderstand me. This is a powerful debut novel and will stand on its on as one of the most powerful and well paced novels you will read.
rnoncology More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! A very compelling read. I couldn't stop and read late into the night. Can't wait to see what else she has written, or what is next!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was in a hurry at the library so I picked this book off of the new book shelf not knowing anything about it. I was drawn in from the first page and the story never let up in its pace. It was hard to put down. The combination of the Shetland folklore and the mystery of the story itself is perfect and it keeps you guessing all along. Truly a great book. I recommend reading it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
S. J. Bolton (aka Sharon Bolton) is one of the best mystery-writers I've ever read. I can't put down any of her books! I highly highly recommend!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the basic plot of this book was excellent and the writing flowed really well, I was very disappointed in the pace. It was incredibly long-winded, especially in the frst half of the book when very little happened. It would have been better with about 100 fewer pages. I understand, however, that this was a debut novel so I will give the author some slack and read the next installment, hoping the writer grows with experience. Stephanie Clanahan
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I really enjoyed this book as I have all her others.
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