Ultimate Sacrifice

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Ultimate Sacrifice, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Ultimate Sacrifice was written by S.E. Green and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel with horror elements, focusing on a family whose lives are turned upside down when there is a grisly murder on their property. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s previous work to fully appreciate it.

Vickie fears the worst when she sees her twin brother Travis stumble out of the woods, covered in blood. However, she could never have imagined the horrible scene that he discovered. Their neighbour’s four-year-old daughter has been brutally murdered in what looks unmistakably like a Satanic ritual. To make things even worse, the murder took place only a short distance from her home and the killer could very well still be lurking in the forest.

As the police and media descend on her home, Vickie starts to realise that they are the number one suspects. Yet, how can that possibly be? Her family are all valued members of the community. Her parents are happily married and they all attend church every Sunday. Yet it’s not long before a mysterious stranger posts a blog that contains all sorts of sordid imagines of her parents, uncle and brothers. Suddenly, Vickie’s family don’t seem very squeaky clean after all and seem to come under even closer scrutiny.

Not content to let her family’s reputation be dragged through the mud, Vickie begins to investigate for herself and starts to uncover some sordid facts about the history between her parents and the victim’s mother. It seems that nobody is quite who Vickie believed them to be, but would that give them motive to kill a helpless child?

Okay, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first. As you might be able to tell from the blurb, Ultimate Sacrifice contains a lot of things that young or sensitive readers may find upsetting. Not only is there the rather brutal murder of child, but there are also some scenes of violence, animal abuse, drug use and sex. While I would say that this is suitable for an older teen, you might want to read it through yourself before giving it to anyone under fifteen.

Ultimate Sacrifice is possibly not the kind of story that you would expect. Based on what I read on Goodreads, I was expecting this to be more of a horror story than it ultimately was. While there are certainly elements of this to be found in the tale, I would certainly consider the book to be more of a murder mystery. After the discovery of the body in the opening chapter, most of the focus for the rest of the story is on a teenage girl who only wants to prove that her family is not responsible.

While I did find the novel to be a little slow to find its feet, it gradually builds to a pretty enthralling tale that shows how a murder investigation can drive wedges between family members. Vickie’s family seem pretty idyllic at the start of the story. While her parents do have a bit of a disquieting attitude towards black people, they are otherwise portrayed as being pretty normal. They’re incredibly close, supportive and religious. Yet it soon becomes clear that no one in this story is how they first appear. Every single one of them is hiding something dark, and some of these even give them motive for murder.

Ultimate Sacrifice really is a novel that keeps you guessing. While I did actually figure out the twist quite early on, some of the other character reveals did take me by surprise. I’m not going to talk about the plot too much here as it would be way too easy to spoil the story, but some of the hidden secrets that the characters held were things I never could have imagined.

However, there still were a few holes in the tale. While the conclusion of the story was fairly solid on the whole, I was left with a couple of questions. I was never entirely sure why the detective became so fixated on Vickie’s family. While he did eventually come into some evidence against them he seemed to be obsessed with the idea that one of them was guilty from the very beginning, even when the evidence against other members of the community was more damning. Similarly, I’m pretty sure that it was never revealed who posted the blog about Vickie’s family’s “sins”. Maybe I just overlooked this, but if it’s not in there it is a glaring omission.

Despite my little nit-picks, I did find the story to be utterly enthralling. Supernatural elements can be found throughout the book in the form of one character’s suspicion that a local Satanic cult is responsible for the murder, but a lot of this is left open to the reader’s interpretation. Up until the final chapters, I was still unsure as to whether the cult’s prophecy concerning the second coming would turn out to be true or not. However, I do think that the conclusion of the mystery will perhaps divide readers. Personally, I found it to be a little over the top but this is purely based on my personal taste. If you do read this novel, I’ll be curious to hear what you think of it.

The characters are probably this novel’s strongest aspect. While they all start off seeming like gleaming paragons of virtue, the cracks in this are swift for form. Every single character in this story has multiple different levels and this certainly helped to make them feel like real people. By the time that I reached the half-way point, I found the book difficult to put down as I was curious to learn all about them.

I also felt that the story did an excellent job of illustrating what a murder investigation is like, and the impact that it had on the potentially innocent suspects. The police and press do not treat Vickie’s family nicely in the story, being generally unpleasant with them and taking on the attitude that everyone is guilty until proven innocent. This adds a lot of pressure to Vickie’s family, leading to inevitable breakdowns and outbursts, which certainly helped to keep me on the edge of my seat!

Anyhow, I should probably stop talking now before I spoil everything. Ultimate Sacrifice is a little slow to start but once it finds its feet, it’s a rather addictive read. If you’re a fan of mystery stories with slight horror overtones, this is certainly one to look out for.

Ultimate Sacrifice can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Giselle [Xpresso Reads]
    Oct 10, 2017 @ 18:27:23

    Mystery books are my favorite so this one def sounds right up my alley! Great review! 🙂

    Reply

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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