Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
State Detective Maggie Knight is called to the town of Sanctuary when a fire at a party ends in the tragic death of a teenage boy. It should be a pretty simple case, he fell, it was an accident… But then the police chief’s son comes forward with video evidence and an accusation of witchcraft. There’s only one registered witch in town, and its her giftless daughter who stands accused of murder by unnatural means.
Our moms were drinking champagne when Daniel died. Sipping on bubbles as Beatriz screamed outside the burning party house and I was loaded into an ambulance.
Sanctuary presents a modern day which hunt, it just happens that witchcraft might actually be involved. As prejudices and grief collide, accusations escalate and mass hysteria takes over any logic.
You don’t have to look far to see the parallels with the current political climate. The witches could easily have been a Muslim family or immigrants, the townspeople finding someone “other” to blame. MeToo is represented too, sexual crimes hushed up to protect the wrong people and the victims being blamed for their promiscuity. Everyone knows witches are slutty… That’s the narrative of those who wish to defend the star quarterback.
Sarah is a witch who helps people, that’s her business. Some might seek out a doctor or therapist, others go to the local witch. Sarah knows the secrets of half the town. She was heartbroken when he daughter failed to manifest magical powers but at least that means she knows for certain that Harper is innocent. She can’t murder with magic if she doesn’t have any.
The ingredients and objects are your ink. The charts and symbols are your paper. And magic is the drawing you make.
Daniel’s death drives a wedge through Sarah’s circle of friends. At first, Abigail’s actions are one of a grieving mother, lashing out, everyone can see that. The others do their best not to take sides, but can their friendships withstand the hate campaign to come?
Whilst witches are legally recognised, the law does not treat crimes involving witchcraft equally, and an arcane state law means Maggie must be absolutely certain before she makes an arrest.
It’s not an easy read in terms of content, but I loved the mix of police procedural and fantasy against a contemporary backdrop. It reminded me a little of Megan Abbott, if her books had witches. At the core are mothers who will do anything for their children.
There’s a moment in the story when everything seems like it’ll turn out all right, I breathed a sigh of relief, only for one action to completely tip it over the edge. I felt pretty anxious for the rest of it, a mark of great characterisation.
Sanctuary is published by Gollancz and is available now in hardback and ebook editons. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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