Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sanctuary by V. V. James

 Shocking, I know--I finished two books in one weekend. Now I can't wait to dig into the other books I've got lined up for the rest of October. This novel continues the magical theme I have going for October. It's definitely getting darker out earlier, and now when I get up early to hit the gym, it's still dark when I leave the gym--and I do miss that sunrise on the drive home. 

I first saw this novel pop up on Goodreads. I looked at what people had to say, and while I was interested, I wasn't running out to grab it. I was perusing the new release tables at B&N and saw it there, and decided I had to read it. I'm so glad I paid attention--usually when a book keeps popping up around me, I take it as a sign that I should read it. I wasn't disappointed in this magical suspense novel. 

Dan Whitman is attending a high school party at a rented home when he falls to his death and a fire erupts, burning down the house and causing all the kids to flee in terror. Dan is Mr. Popularity at high school and had just secured a football scholarship for college. He was on his way to fame and fortune. 

Dan's death stirs up a whole lot of bad stuff in the town of Sanctuary, Connecticut. Witchcraft is legal in the U.S., but there are strict laws on those who practice it. Sarah Fenn is the town witch, and her daughter Harper was Dan's ex-girlfriend. Sarah and Dan's mother Abigail, along with Julia and Bridget have been friends  for years. The three women also are Sarah's coven. Rules dictate that only the person who has been certified as a witch may use their powers, so the other three women do not have any magical talents. But Sarah uses their energy to create spells that help folks around town. Her family has lived in Sanctuary for generations. However, with Dan's death, a whole lot of bad energy starts to take ahold of Sanctuary. 

That bad energy starts with Abigail. She's destroyed with grief over the death of her only son. Dan's friend brings forth allegations that Harper caused Dan's death through witchcraft, and claims to have it all recorded on his phone. Along with that, there is an edited sex tape going around of Harper and Dan. Detective Maggie Knight has been called in to investigate Dan's death, and she quickly realizes she's stepped into a brewing, tension-filled town. 

This is more than just a novel about witches and magic. At the heart of the story is a mystery--how did Dan die, and who was responsible for it? Was it just an accident, or deliberate? And as Maggie digs, she slowly uncovers a whole lot of secretive history amongst Sarah and her friends-and their children, too. It's also a tale of hysteria, and people swallowing utter bullshit and becoming absolute sheep and turning into a murderous mob. And it's a tale of friendships that are always on the tipping point. 

The tension in the novel slowly increases, as the days go by and Abigail moves from grief to rage and a thirst for revenge. Sarah, always doing good for all, is just not quick enough to realize the danger she is in as Abigail slowly turns the town and the media against Sarah and Harper. Maggie is in a race to uncover just what happened at the party-who does she believe, and what does the evidence tell her? Maggie's viewpoint is the best, actually. She is you the reader, trying to figure it all out with the evidence and clues she has at her disposal. You may think you have an idea, but I bet you won't quite figure it all out until it's revealed at the end. 

The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Sarah, Maggie, Abigail, and Harper. It keeps you guessing the whole way through, and there are surprises aplenty. The back cover of the novel says it is a mix of Big Little Lies and Practical Magic, and I'd say that's fairly accurate. This would make a really, really good TV movie. I think it would also make a really good book group discussion. So much to talk about. 

Rating: 5/6 for a slowly building tension-filled thriller that mixes modern witchcraft, law, death, family, friends, and age-old prejudices into a hard to put down tale. So good! 

Available in trade paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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