SANCTUM - Denise Mina

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

In another classic example of reader blindsightedness (okay so that's probably not a word), I'd filed SANCTUM somewhere at the back of the bookcase and promptly forgot it was there.  Such a relief to unearth it during a recent tidy up and to move it straight to the top of the reading pile.   Interestingly, as I sat down to write up this mini-review I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising slightly as I think about Lachlan in particular again.

Originally published in 2002, if you've not read SANCTUM for whatever reason, now is as good a time as any to rectify the miss.  From the author of the much acclaimed Garnethill trilogy, this is a very different sort of a book.  It's written in first person perspective, and whilst some readers are a bit leery of that, it works unbelievably well here.  As SANCTUM explores the thinking of a husband whose wife is guilty of a murder, the use of Lachlan's own voice provides an intimacy that's disconcerting.  It creates an insulated, personal, very intimate relationship between the character and the reader, and provides an author with Mina's skill with some serious options for manipulation (of the fairest possible kind mind you).  Lachlan starts off very much as a man in grief, but it's not long before he becomes profoundly creepy, controlling and complaining.  Other characters who come and go from his life astutely comment on him at points in the book.  Susie, his wife, is distant, perfect, ethereal, extremely suspicious.  There are others within this story - relatives, Susie's colleague, the live in help but ultimately this book is about Lachlan - even more so than it is about Susie and the man she murdered. 

Lachlan, frankly, makes the reader extremely uncomfortable in his presence and you'd be excused for having some sympathy for Susie - as extreme an escape plan murder of another may well be.  Sympathies ebb and flow, as ultimately the truth behind the murder is revealed. The Garnethill Trilogy remains one of my all time favourite sets of books - but SANCTUM is a fantastic stand-alone that was just absolutely un-put-downable.  

Year of Publication

Lachlan Harriot is in a state of shock.  His wife Susie has been convicted of the murder of serial killer Andrew Gow, a prisoner in her care.  Unless Harriot can come up with grounds for an appeal in two weeks' time, Susie will be given a life sentence, depriving her of her two-year-old daughter.

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