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by Denise Mina
Bantam Press, November 2002
300 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0593046579

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is a serial killer novel with a difference; he's the dead body.

In Denise Mina's fourth novel, she sets herself a number of challenges as she breaks completely with Maureen and her friends and family in the wonderful Garnethill trilogy, and introduces a new set of characters.

Sanctum is presented to us as a sort of diary which was found on the hard drive of an old computer and sold to the author as a collector of true crime stories, an interesting update on the "this manuscript somehow came into my possession". The writer of the diary, Lachlan Harriot, is searching his wife's study, trying to find information which would provide grounds for an appeal against his wife's imprisonment for murdering Andrew Gow, a prisoner she was working with.

Why and how has Dr Susie Harriot, a respected forensic psychiatrist, come to be in this situation? Is there an explanation or evidence in Gow's history, or in the story of his second wife, who wrote to him in prison, married him and campaigned for his release? Personally, I can't understand why anyone would do that, but it makes really interesting if very uncomfortable reading.

I didn't like Lachlan much (and I did like Maureen in her previous books a lot). He came across as pretty self-deluded, and smug, and contradictory, and most of the other characters in the novel were even less attractive. The pleasantest character in the book was the Spanish au pair girl. But I thought Mina's portrait of this character was very convincing, and that she succeeds very well in creating a story which I found compelling, disturbing and thought provoking reading.

Reviewed by Luci Davin, January 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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