Top critical review
Great Writing, but Doesn't Quite Gel
on 14 September 2016
I'm partly with the nay- sayers on this. I've loved all Mina's other books & raced through them. But I found it difficult to persevere with Sanctum. Most of the characters are unpleasant: I was surprised that one reviewer here thought the husband likeable, whereas I at one point began to wonder if he himself was involved in the murder(s), as he seemed inconsistent, vain, weak, devious, & sometimes nasty. (Though I'll admit that somebody who writes frankly, believing their words to be private, might occasionally come across as less pleasant than their public persona would have you believe).
I thought the plot clever & original, but found its various convolutions quite confusing, though that may be my failing rather than Mina's. I did like the format, a mix of various documents: diaries, court proceedings, newspaper reports, medical reports, even though I found it hard to follow at times.
In general the writing is of her usual high standard & the characterisation spot on. I particularly enjoyed the narrator's family, the mother especially; which is to say I found her bossiness, complacency & insensitivity almost comically infuriating. (But why are mothers in fiction always so awful?)
Mina's prose is rarely less than superb, robust, lively, streetwise, she evokes scenes & characters, tough or tender, crude or poignant, with great immediacy. Certain of her descriptions stayed with me: 'She's a sullen little gremlin with a flat nose covered in blackheads'. And, elsewhere, ' when she wears those thin trousers her bum looks like two jumbo plums quivering in a silk hankie'.
Enough to put you off your dinner, but oh, to be able to write like that.
If it weren't for the fact that a fair proportion of others were less than enthusiastic about this book, I'd think my failure to enjoy it fully was down to my lazy reading. But although it seems to have all the right ingredients, it doesn't quite work as a whole.