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3.5 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 18 November 2002
Denise Mina is now one of my all time favourite writers. Ever since her debut novel, her writing and skill as a story-teller has matured as her career progresses, becoming better and better with each book. Indeed, "Resolution", the final novel in her Garnethill trilogy was almost a masterpiece. With this, her first stand-alone novel, she gets even better.
The story she tells is fascinating, told in beautifully compelling prose laced with the raw emotions felt by a man whose wife has been sent to jail for the brutal murder of a serial killer. (The story is told as the diaries of Lachlan Harriot, husband of the woman who is accused and imprisoned over the killing of five-times killer Andrew Gow.) The way the story is gradually unfolded through the diaries is absolutely fascinating, and propells the reader through the book in search of the next twist, the next bit of information.
The characters are drawn really well, often a hard task when writing in the first-person. Lachlan Harriot is very likeable, and it is very enjoyable to follow the story through his eyes and perceptions.
The issues Mina tackles are handled well, and she makes their exploration fasinating.
the plot is very strong, and refreshingly original, and the final solution is completely unexpected, and some of the revelations are rather shocking, in fact.
Overall, this is a fascinating, excellently written, compelling book which i would reccomend to absolutely anyone. Denise Mina's talent is growing and growing, to the extent that this book is one of the best things i've ever read.
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on 12 November 2002
“Sanctum” is Denise Mina’s fourth novel, but the first not to feature former psychiatric patient Maureen O’Donnell as the central character.
Lachlan Harriot’s wife, Dr Susie Harriot, has been convicted of murdering a notorious serial killer; she’s also been accused of having sexual relations with the man prior to the murder taking place.
Lachie is convinced that his ‘darling wife Susie’ is completely innocent and is determined to uncover evidence that will help to overturn the murder conviction.
The book is written from the point of view of Lachie through a series of diary entries that he composes in Dr Susie’s secret study each night. He documents his progress (or lack of) in coming up with evidence to make an appeal possible; he has as his disposal a plethora of information as his wife was actually the psychiatrist of the man whom she was accused of murdering. Lachlan is also struggling to come to terms with the forced changes in his life: he has a young daughter to look after with no mother around to help; the press are taking photograph’s that make him look fat & ugly; and horror upon horrors – his Mother and Father are coming to stay.
As the story progresses, Lachlan is forced to examine the fact that things at home have never been quite the way he always assumed them to be. Maybe Susie did commit the murders after all. But what reason could she possibly have to do so?
“Sanctum” is far removed from Denise Mina’s Garnethill trilogy: although murders have taken place and there are a few shocks and surprises as the story unravels, the atmosphere of the book is nowhere near as dark and disturbing as Mina’s previous novels.
The writing is wonderful – as we have come to expect from the author – and it’s quite possible that reading a shopping-list written by Denise would be a rewarding experience. One particular description of the Selfridges sweetie department had me salivating at the mouth; my plain old dairy-milk chocolate bar didn’t taste so good that night.
Overall: top quality plot, characterization and prose make this book a welcome addition from an exceptionally talented Scottish writer.
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on 8 May 2006
I couldn't put down this book. I was intrigued, desperate to make sense of the conviction of Lachlan Harriot's wife for the murder of Andrew Gow, a self-confessed serial killer who had been inexplicably released on appeal.

One's sympathies are torn apart. It seems so real: the vagaries of the British Justice System with the many documented cases of innocents in prison, a husband-and-wife relationship that turns out to be less than it seems, the almost mundane revelation that people change, we change, and that we can never really know what goes on inside another person’s head.

Denise creates a lifelike quality by cleverly maintaining several doubts in your mind. Are these case notes for real? (I had to do a search on the internet to satisfy myself about this.) Did Susie Harriot really murder Andrew Gow? She didn’t surely? And if she did then how and why? What really happened at Cape Wrath? Was he really innocent of murder? Surely not? And where does Donna, Andrew’s correspondence bride, fit in?

Other than a few, hardly noticeable lumpy moments in writing style, the book is extraordinarily well-crafted. Everything fits so well together. It’s worth reading a second time, now with the perspective of hindsight, to experience the story in a different way.

I am still occasionally arrested in my thinking to marvel at the interconnectedness of the plot and the wholly unexpected conclusion.
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on 17 August 2013
I have loved Ms Mina's Paddy Murphy, Alex Morrow and Maureen O'Donnell novels. All of them are superb. This didn't do it for me. It's not a bad book - it is intriguing and keeps you guessing, but just didn't do it for me.
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on 17 January 2015
What's clever about this book is the way Denise Mina lets us see into Lachlan Harriot’s character through his comments, behaviour and thoughts. We gradually realise what kind of a person he actually is. This is technically difficult and Mina does it real justice. The events - the murders and the history behind them - are in a way less important than the unfolding character. I found Lachlan both quirky and sometimes awful: his wild swings of mood and sudden infatuations (with Harry's mum for instance and wee Susie's Spanish nanny) are dealt with honestly but very humorously. Lachlan is the point of the book!
I am an avid reader, but I rarely find a book unput-downable. This one was.
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on 3 September 2015
What a tedious book, the first half was all diaries, the rest of the book, well, it was so boring I missed out many chapters and read the final few to see what happened. What a load of tosh and a waste of money.
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on 1 January 2014
I've loved all of Denise Mina's books but this one was a bit of a let down for me. It seemed to be based on a real life murder, none of the characters were the least bit likeable and the ending was inconclusive.
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on 9 August 2012
Not very good, very obvious plot, dreary bunch of people, you just don't care about how or why any of them are killed, who kills them or who they are inlove with. Might have been better told from the point of view of the women involved rather than that ot the depressed husband who I think i remeber is called Derek.
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on 8 May 2014
This was a real struggle to finish as nothing happens for the first 250 pages except constant repetition. I have to admit that I started skimming because it was so boring and tedious. Then when something gets revealed at the end it is so nonsensical (how could it happen - did nobody see pictures in the paper??) that you realise yep - reading it was a total waste of time.

This was my first Denise Mina book and I expected so much more. When I bought this book I also bought the Paddy Meehan trilogy - I'm worried I've wasted money!
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