The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton – review

Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date – 24 November 2022

Source – review copy

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 . . .

Zoey wakes up with the mother of all hangovers. Or at least that’s what she thinks before she opens her eyes. When she does, she finds herself in an unfamiliar room, in the Mexican desert, not in New York where she was the night before. She has no recollection of what lead her to The Sanctuary, or why someone is willing to pay the exorbitant fees to keep her there instead of jail. Soon she finds The Sanctuary helping her, until it emerges everything isn’t as it seems…

Zoey is a troubled woman. An incident in her past has led her on a slow path of self destruction, one so benign she hasn’t really noticed it. Yes, she doesn’t have her own home, she has a series of dead end jobs and only a few friends. She only likes to drink but isn’t an alcoholic and only smokes. She doesn’t need help. However, as she stays at The Sanctuary she begins to realise that the issues from her past have directed her life. She doesn’t have to be addicted to drugs, or gambling, doesn’t have to have an obvious “issue” but still needs help. Of course all of the characters in the book have issues, that is why they are at The Sanctuary. Zoey begins to form healthier relationships, such as with Naomi, a fellow guest. She begins to realise that having money, all of the other guests are very rich, doesn’t mean your problems stop.

Zoey is also curious. She begins to notice that things may not be as they appear. She is motivated to find out, not just because she likes those affected but because she has a sense of justice. She reassesses where she wants to be, what she wants to do. As she gets to know the others, she looks at her friendships and her relationship with her parents and brother.

There is very much the sense of a closed room mystery, a claustrophobia despite the sanctuary being set in the open desert. There are limited characters, so few suspects and it’s easy to pick up on the sense that something isn’t quite right. The location is a great setting. There is the sense of peace, cut through with an undercurrent of something not quite right, of secrets waiting to be uncovered.

This isn’t what you might expect as a murder mystery. Yes there are deaths, though they come later in the book. Zoey gets embroiled in finding out what is really happening at The Sanctuary, her sense of justice, one she had perhaps forgotten, coming to the surface.

An engaging, entertaining, pacey thriller in a remote yet compelling setting.


You can buy a copy of The Sanctuary on Bookshop.Org.

(This is an affiliate link so I may earn a few pence if you buy the book).

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