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Sacrifice Paperback – 29 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (29 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552159751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552159753
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sharon Bolton (previously S. J. Bolton) is the critically acclaimed author of some of the most bone-chilling crime books ever written. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Dagger in the Library.

Sharon lives near Oxford with her husband and young son.

For more information about the author and her books, or to check out her addictive blog, visit You can also join her on at

Product Description

Amazon Review

About the Author ~ Sharon Bolton
Born in Lancashire, Sharon Bolton trained as an actress and a dancer, has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has a degree in drama and an MBA. She pursued a successful career in PR and marketing, but her career break to start a family enabled her to write her first novel, Sacrifice, which has been inspired by her fascination with British traditional folklore.

Sharon lives near Oxford with her husband and young son.

Exclusive Interview with Sharon Bolton

What is Sacrifice about?

Set on the remote Shetland Islands, Sacrifice begins with the discovery of a woman’s mutilated body. A gaping hole appears where her heart has been cut out; runic symbols have been carved into her flesh and her uterus has barely recovered from childbirth.

Tora Hamilton, consultant obstetrician on Shetland, uses her position at the local hospital to access information denied to the police and, in doing so, uncovers a terrifying pattern of missing women and disturbing links to ancient legends. There are dark secrets being guarded on Shetland but, one by one, Tora sees those she loves and trusts turn away from her, until she is entirely alone.

What inspired you to write it?

I had an idea for a story based on a woman, who desperately wanted to be pregnant, conceiving a child that would bring about her death. In my local library I came across the Shetland legend of the Kunal Trows: a race of supernatural males who prey upon their human neighbours. It had enough similarity to my own idea to catch my attention and I started to think how it might work as a modern-day thriller.

Who are your literary influences?

If I ever write my masterpiece, it will have an opening line like those of Dick Francis and a first chapter on a par with John Grisham’s. The prose will be so perfect readers might suspect it has been written by Thomas Harris and the twists and turns of the plot will make Dan Brown weep. The characters will as finely drawn as Jane Austen’s and it will be more atmospheric than a work by Dickens in his darkest mood. Oh, and when he gets to th! e end, Stephen King will say to himself, "How on earth did she think of that?"

If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?

This is a close-to-impossible one, so no apologies for choosing the obvious. JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings – thriller, adventure story, romance, fantasy, epic – has pace, suspense, excitement, characters you can love, the age-old battle of good v evil and an earthy love of food, beer and all things humble. Peter Jackson’s wonderful films brought the story to millions but, as is always the case, there’s so much more to be found in the books.

What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?

Trust your instincts when choosing your story; and then polish that text until it gleams. There really is no substitute for hard work.

Reviews for Sacrifice

'S. J. Bolton will not have endeared herself to the natives with this splendidly crafted, deeply disturbing first novel, unless it is by doing wonders for the tourist industry. Sacrifice is almost a 21st-century Stepford Wives having Rosemary’s Baby for The Wicker Man . . . This debut novel will deservedly be a bestseller . . . just a whiff of testosterone short of a masterpiece'. The Times

A really creepy plot based on one of the Shetland Islands’ nastier legends . . . The combination of folklore and forensics works well, and the story grabs from the very beginning and holds on tight. Literary Review

Masterly… gripping. Literary Review

'A dazzling debut in thriller-writing: fast paced, gripping and full of atmosphere. Classic Fm

This eerie tale had me so hooked I was reading it through the night . . . brilliantly written and carefully crafted. Peterborough Evening Telegraph

Sacrifice belongs firmly in that specialist category "spooky crime" and could best be described as CSI-meets-The Wicker Man. The setting is the wild and lonely Shetland Islands, an ancient Norse legend is involved and there is enough forensic pathology, both animal and human, to keep fans of Patricia Cornwell happy . . . Sharon Bolton grabs the reigns and steers it home by cranking up the suspense with a skill which is remarkable for a first novel. Birmingham Post

Sacrifice is a real find. The Shetland setting is beautifully evoked, the complex plot is adroitly handled, and - best of all - S.J. Bolton has created an entirely believable and different heroine. At the heart of the book is Tora Hamilton, a contemporary woman absorbing the pressures of career and relationships, strong-minded - indeed bloody-minded a lot of the time. Her honesty and awareness of her own failings make her a mesmerising character to follow through the dark corridors of the sometimes gruesome story. I very much look forward to S.J. Bolton's next book. Simon Brett, crime writer

Fairy legends associated with island races are fascinating – and none more so than the Kunal Trows of the Shetlands . . . Sharon Bolton has hit the ground running in this debut novel’. Nottingham Evening Post

'Sacrifice is an intense, fast paced thriller with numerous wonderful twists and turns that confound the reader throughout.

Some authors start their careers on a slow note: Sharon Bolton hits the ground running. How long does it take to realise this is one of the good ones? On page two, I had an idea that S. J. Bolton could plot. And she can, like the best . . . Sacrifice makes a great start to 2008. Shotsmag

‘...scary late night reading and riveting stuff. The plot twists and turns like a snake trying to wriggle free, only at the very end does the author enlighten us as to the exact details of the gruesome truth . . . This is an unmissable, un-put-downable debut novel from S J Bolton . . . I haven’t seen this level of talent in a new writer for some years – it’s bloody brilliant.’ The Truth About Books

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Sacrifice is one of the best thrillers ever, and made me not notice I was nearly in a plane crash (seriously!)." (Sophie Hannah)

"A dazzling debut in thriller-writing: fast paced, gripping and full of atmosphere" (Classic FM)

"Splendidly crafted, deeply disturbing first novel...will deservedly be a bestseller" (The Times)

"Grabs from the very beginning and holds on tight" (Literary Review)

"A chilling, mesmerising debut thriller. S. J. Bolton is one to watch" (TESS GERRITSEN)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By SJSmith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Mar. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Both gripping and gruesome, `Sacrifice' is a definite page-turner, that is certain to keep you on your toes. When I first started reading it I wasn't sure that I'd get far with it, the writing was different to those I had read recently. However within a few chapters I was hooked and racing along with the narrative. Tora Hamilton took me a little while to warm to, perhaps this is why I was unsure at the start but I soon became caught up with her life.

The chapters are just the right length to allow you to read a few but feel like you've had a good read, on the other hand if you are like me you'll read this in a few chunks because you've become caught up with the cliff hangers and need to know more! The plot revolves around a discovery Tora makes in the fields on her property. She's found (as can be read on the DJ so no spoilers) the body of young woman that has been perfectly preserved but with a hole in her chest where her heart has been removed, rather brutally as you'll discover.

Within a real time frame of only a few days, a week at the most, Tora makes many more gruesome discoveries along the way including who to trust. All her revelations are connected to Shetland legends and ancient runes with Tora needing to be out of the picture once and for all. Some will know who's involved and who isn't; I couldn't be sure and became sucked into the web of deceit surrounding Tora.

From an uncertain start to a chilling end, this debut is tremendous. An author I will certainly look out for in the future.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By MsCindyBooks on 23 July 2009
Format: Paperback
34 year old Tora Hamilton is a consultant surgeon who has recently moved to the remote Shetland islands with her native Islander husband Duncan, who himself has been away for 20 years. The story begins with Tora digging a hole to bury one of her horses when she discovers the perfectly preserved body of a young woman in the peat soil situated on her newly purchased property. What is even more unsettling for Tora is that the woman's heart has been removed and there are strange symbols carved onto the body. There are signs that the woman had been restrained before her death as well. Thus begins Tora's pursuit on finding out who the young woman was, who killed her and why was she murdered in the manner that she was. However, Tora is warned by the local police, her boss, and even her husband, to leave well enough alone.

There are so many twist and turns in the story I never really had time to figure out what was coming up next. The author S. J. Bolton gives the reader one shocking surprise after another. Tora, nor the reader is ever sure who can be trusted even up to the very end. I was on the edge of my seat most of the time wanting to get to the final chapter, yet at the same time I desired to savor every minute and make it last a little longer. This is an excellent read if you like your crime fiction fast paced with plenty of suspense, mystery and action. An added bonus to the story was the interesting history of the Shetland Islands. I always love it when I'm learning as I'm being entertained.

So why 4 stars instead of 5?
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wendy McFarlane on 12 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oh my! When I began to read this I was a little dubious as novels written in the first person sometimes struggle to develop the main character.This has a slow start and if I am honest, I found the first two hundred pages quite slow moving. But then suddenly all the vague hints and clues scattered through the early chapters started to fall into place and the story really came into its own; a slow burner if you like that expression, which I don't.The reader slowly begins to understand Tora's character and the subtle nuances of the plot. The sense of place is so well done; I live in the Highlands and have been to some of the islands and believe me the authors descriptions are very accurate. There is a sense when you are there that you have entered another world as they are steeped in mystery and folklore which is centuries old...almost like a time warp in fact. I loved this story. I know some readers thought it far fetched but in the context of time and place, for me it worked.( If you ever spend any time on the islands you might alter your perception of this book.) It was haunting, spooky and thrilling through to the end and incorporated everything which I love..Celtic myths and legends and a few good murders! I have the second, The Awakening to read..not sure as its full of snakes and I have a total, irrational phobia about them. Anyway onwards and upwards..I'll give it a try in the name of literature! If you get the chance to read! It's an excellent debut from an author to watch..happy reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Boof VINE VOICE on 11 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
If you love the sort of book that is so relentless in pace, with characters whom you don't know whether you can trust or not from one page to the next, and wrapped up in a plot so engaging that you just can't find a suitable place to put the book down and take a break, then this book is for you!

Tora, a surgeon, and her husband Duncan have recently moved to the Shetland Islands from England (although Duncan was brought up there but hasn't lived there for 20 years). From the opening pages, when Tora unearths the body of a young woman while trying to dig a grave for her horse, through to the action-packed final scenes the tightly woven plot never slips despite its 550 pages. After the discovery of the body, Tora can't quite bring herself to leave it alone, convinced there there are other bodies to be found and sets off on a mission to discover the mystery surrounding the nameless girl in her garden, but it seems that someone (or several someones) are trying to stop her. Teaming up with Dana Tulloch, a serious young police detective who agrees with Tora that nothing is quite as it seems, they embark on a mission to find out what has happened to the girl in her garden and unearth the secret that someone on the Shetland Islands is deadly intent on not being exposed.

With gothic undertones, ancient history and myths and action and adventure among a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop, what more can you want? Just don't get comfortable......with twists aplenty you'll never quite be sure who you can trust!
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