Sharon J Bolton is the author of the book - Sacrifice - I most enjoyed recently. I suppose it slips into the forensic thriller genre. This is not one I dip into regularly, though I have read Tess Gerritsen recently and the less forensic, straighter horror novels of Stephen King and Dean Koontz some time ago. Usually I find a little goes a long way and I don't need a regular supply of horrors.
The story is set in Shetland and the heroine is Tora, a consultant obstetricain who longs for her own baby but seems destinied not to conceive. In chapter one she unearths a corpse, obviously murdered. Well, the heart has been removed, so it seems a reasonable assumption. The woman gave birth days before dying. Her body bears runes carved into her back - runes Tora has seen carved into the mantel in the cellar of her house.
Small incidents escalate, rattle the nerves and arouse Tora's fighting spirit. What happened to the woman, and the child? What is the connection to the house she lives in? Why is there a strange reticence among the population of Shetland to discuss the problem? When she hears of other women who have disappeared when pregnant, she cannot leave the problem alone.
It is beautifully written - the sort of writing you don't notice over much because it is so fit for purpose. The deeds are spine-chillingly awful but the author does not describe gory details, for which I give thanks; to hint and leave to the imagination is often better than blood following the knife. The grand final is nerve-biting and kept me turning pages to find the answer, reading late into the night. As a first novel, it is astonishly good. I shall be looking for the next title - Awakening.