Friday, 6 December 2019


Ruth Dugdall’s new novel, The Sacrificial Man, the second instalment in her Cate Austin series is definitely not a book for the more squeamish reader. Dark in tone and containing grotesque and disturbing details, it tackles the very sensitive question of whether assisting a person to commit suicide is a crime or an act of love. This particular case, however, deals with a very different situation where the main character, Alice Mariani, a brilliant literature professor, obsessed with the Romantic poets, believes it’s an act of ultimate passion.
Cate Austin, probation officer, is called in to question Alice in order to recommend a suitable sentence, and discover why she agreed to help Dave, a young man suffering no apparent fatal illness, to die. As she tries to chip at Alice's icy exterior, she begins to dig deeper into the past of this enigmatic, beautiful though rather unlikeable woman and discovers how a painful, early childhood has shaped her into a lonely, unreachable narcissist haunted by the traumatic loss of her mother.
Told from multiple points of view, I found Alice’s voice the most compelling, though I enjoyed the more pragmatic character of Cate and would like to have heard a lot more from her. The story is fast moving, the plot compelling and the many twists and turns result in a powerful and shocking ending.
Thanks to Legend Press for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

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