“Very few people get to stay here. And some don’t get to leave …
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 . . .”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton. The Sanctuary will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardcover, audio and digital formats later this week (that’s Thursday 24th November 2022) with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Sanctuary but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder Books for sending me a finished copy.
I read Emma Haughton’s debut thriller, The Dark, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. What’s really interesting about The Dark is that it’s very much a locked room thriller but the setting is a UN research station in Antartica. The way the author makes the reader feel claustrophobic in such a vast and open setting was done incredibly well. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Haughton’s second thriller, The Sanctuary. Once again the setting really grabbed my attention. This time it’s a luxurious, isolated retreat in the heart of the Mexican desert. I was keen to see if the author would be able to evoke the same feelings of claustrophobia and of all hope being lost a second time. And oh boy, Haughton absolutely did!
Zoey wakes up alone, in a strange room and with the worst hangover she’s ever experienced. She’s dazed and confused, and her memories of the night before are hazy at best. It soon becomes clear that Zoey is in a bit of a fix. She’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, an isolated retreat for the rich and famous that likes to dabble in unorthodox treatments. And they’re making it impossible for her to leave. Zoey doesn’t understand how she has ended up in the middle of the Mexican desert, miles from home and anything resembling civilisation. The people she’s stuck with all have addictions – which she doesn’t – and they’re incredibly wealthy – which she isn’t. Which raises the question, who is Zoey’s mysterious benefactor? Who are the people she’s stranded in the middle of the desert with? And what is really going on at The Sanctuary…?
The Sanctuary is a well-written slow burn mystery which builds over the course of the book to a gripping, thrilling conclusion. The author has once again used a setting that is, in theory, vast but manages to make it feel very claustrophobic. There is no chance of escape from The Sanctuary. If dehydration or heat stroke doesn’t kill you, the wildlife probably will! I loved how well the author conveys Zoey’s rising hopelessness as her situation slowly dawned on her.
Many of the characters in the book are unlikeable and tend to frustrate and annoy each other, which adds to the overall tension at the retreat. They’re also incredibly shallow and prepared to do whatever it takes to keep a tight hold on their secrets. That’s the case for both the retreat’s affluent guests but the small body of staff present too. Zoey is the only somewhat likeable character in the bunch, but I don’t think she’ll appeal to everyone. She really does need to take a long hard look at her life as she comes across as quite juvenile a lot of the time, but I kind of liked her. The other characters all play their parts very well and help to move the storyline along. I was able to predict whodunit from fairly early on but that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book at all.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Sanctuary is a tense, slow burn psychological mystery with interesting characters and a thrilling conclusion. I found the book entertaining from start to finish and I’m excited to read more thrillers from this author in the future. I LOVED the setting. The author paints a very vivid picture of the inhospitable desert in her reader’s minds which I thoroughly enjoyed. The setting was as much a character in the story as Zoey, the other guests and the staff. There’s a lot of well-penned intrigue throughout the story. You can’t help but wonder what secrets these privileged people are hiding and what’s really going on at The Sanctuary. I enjoyed the slow build of the story and the escalating tension as I approached the end of the book. And the denouement was very well done. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Sanctuary and look forward to reading more from the author in the future. Recommended.
I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Sanctuary. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |
Emma grew up in Sussex; after a stint au pairing in Paris and a couple of half-hearted attempts to backpack across Europe, she studied English at Oxford University then trained in journalism. During her career as a journalist, she wrote many articles for national newspapers, including regular pieces for the Times Travel section.
Following publication of her picture book, Rainy Day, Emma wrote three YA novels. Her first, Now You See Me, was an Amazon bestseller and nominated for the Carnegie and Amazing Book Awards. Better Left Buried, her second, was one of the best YA reads for 2015 in the Sunday Express. Her third YA novel, Cruel Heart Broken, was picked by The Bookseller as a top YA read for July 2016.