The Sanctuary by Emma

It’s over a year since I reviewed Emma Haughton’s debut crime thriller The Dark in a post you’ll find here. With huge thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Emma’s latest book, The Sanctuary, I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 2022, The Sanctuary is available for purchase through these links.

The Sanctuary

Zoey doesn’t remember anything about last night. But she knows something went badly wrong. For she is no longer in New York. She’s woken up in the desert, in a white building she doesn’t recognise, and she’s alone.

When she discovers she’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, a discreet, mysterious, isolated refuge from normal life, to avoid jail, she is stunned. She knows she has secrets, troubles, but she thought she had everything under control. But as she spends more time with other residents, she begins to open up about what she’s running from. Until she realises that not everyone in The Sanctuary has her best interests at heart, and someone might even be a killer . . .

My Review of The Sanctuary

Zoey’s in a spot of bother!

I’ll be absolutely honest and say that, in order to enjoy The Sanctuary fully, a reader needs willingly to suspend their disbelief. That said, The Sanctuary thrums with menace from the very first page. It’s a pressure cooker of simmering tension that keeps the reader hooked throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The locked-room style plot is suffused with suspicion that makes the reader feel edgy, and the Mexican desert heat adds to the intense atmosphere. It feels as if there’s danger lurking and it’s only a matter of time before something awful happens. Indeed, the nearer to the end of the story, the more dramatic the narrative becomes so that the pace in the second half of The Sanctuary, fittingly after the pivotal ‘ceremony’, feels changed in the same way some of the characters are different and altered. 

With a reduced cast of characters in The Sanctuary I found myself suspecting everyone of some ulterior motive for being in the sanctuary which added to my enjoyment as I strove to categorise the people in my head. Emma Haughton knows exactly how to create unreliable people. For the majority of the story I loathed Zoey because she’s rash, making impulsive, thoughtless decisions that make her her own worst enemy. However, I was also completely compelled by her character. I found Zoey not knowing the reason for her arrival at the Sanctuary and who had paid for her to be there, frustrated and annoyed me. This was a brilliant technique because it meant I experienced Zoey’s own puzzlement and frustration just as she did and it built the tension in the narrative still further. 

As well as the people, the setting is every bit as much a character. Like the people, it can be benevolent, providing food or it can be a danger, supplying life threatening heat, situations and creatures. I thought the way Emma Haughton wove these aspects into The Sanctuary was incredibly skilful. I could feel the heat as I read.

The Sanctuary embodies mature and thought-provoking themes too. There’s mental health, addiction and morality right at the heart of the story that illustrates just how we can become welded to negative behaviours. I actually found reading parts of the story surprisingly helpful and cathartic and I loved the development of the characters over time as relationships fractured and shifted.

The Sanctuary is a compelling, atmospheric thriller that builds slowly to a dramatic conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton grew up in Sussex, studied English at Oxford and worked as a journalist for several national newspapers, including The Times Travel section. Emma has written several non-fiction books for schools as well as YA thrillers. This is her first crime novel.

For further information, follow Emma on Twitter @Emma_Haughton and visit her website. You’ll also find Emma on Facebook and Instagram.

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