15 January 2014

Review: The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne book cover
* From the author for review *

According to author Sarah Rayne's website, the term sin eater: refers to a person who, by means of food and drink, would ritualistically take on the sins of a dead or dying person, thus absolving his or her soul. Parts of the Old Testament hint at the ritual of sin-eating, and over the centuries it seems to have been performed, in various forms, in many parts of the world. The last recorded instance of a sin-eater in the UK was in Shropshire as recently as 1893.

The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne is the second novel in the Michael Flint / Nell West series and follows on from Property of a Lady. I absolutely fell in love with Property of a Lady, and gave it 5 stars in my review, so I was eager to read the next in the series.  However, unfortunately for me The Sin Eater just wasn't able to match it.

Nell West is an antiques dealer and Michael Flint an academic working in Oxford and together they make a great pair.  In this novel they become involved with Benedict through a friend and his inheritance of Holly Lodge*.  Benedict begins to experience a presence in Holly Lodge and is convinced he is suffering from dissociative personality disorder or DPD.  I was frustrated by the character's explanations for what was happening to him: perhaps it was DPD, it was the mist, I knocked my head etc.  In fact, each of the three main characters were reluctant to accept that there could be unexplained forces at work.

As the reader I jumped in straight away and was more than willing to accept what was happening and just wanted to get on with the plot.  The character's continual reluctance held me back when I just wanted to be swept away by the narrative.

The sections set in London and Ireland in the 1890s were the most gripping of all, and I could easily have spent the entire novel there.  The story of the first sin eater, the evil and malevolent chess pieces and the fire in the watch tower had me powering through the pages to find out what was going to happen.  These sections were written in the signature Sarah Rayne style I've come to know and love and I just wish Michael, Nell and Benedict were less reluctant to accept what was happening to them, and get on with it.

I'm very much looking forward to reading the next in the series, The Silence.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Funnily enough, Holly Lodge is a residence in Victoria where my sister and our family stayed while preparing for her wedding 2 years ago.  The beautiful double storey property holds special memories for me so I relished seeing the name Holly Lodge throughout The Sin Eater.

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