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The sacrificial man by R. E. Dugdall
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The sacrificial man (edition 2012)

by R. E. Dugdall

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293378,207 (3.45)None
Member:austcrimefiction
Title:The sacrificial man
Authors:R. E. Dugdall
Info:Melbourne, Vic. : Text Pub., 2012.
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Crime, Review, United Kingdom, Psychological

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The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall

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I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the Sacrificial Man, nor how to respond to it. Recommended by Carol at Reading, Writing and Riesling, the blurb certainly sounded intriguing.

The Sacrificial Man tells the story of Alice Mariani, a woman convicted by the courts for helping her lover to die. As Alice insists she has done nothing wrong and deserves no punishment, probation officer Cate Austin begins her investigation to determine an appropriate sentence for the crime.

The reader might expect that the ethics of euthanasia would be at the core of this novel but it is subverted by the study of the twisted psychology and motivations of Alice, and her lover. While I thought the twists to the plot were clever, somehow they failed to catch me unawares, though shocking revelations involving incest, rape, drug addiction and cannibalism did surprise me.

I developed some sympathy for Alice as Dugdall revealed her personal history, but she is not a likeable character, and is quickly exposed as cold, calculating and manipulative. Neither did I engage with Cate, though perhaps if I had read Dugdall’s first book featuring the probation officer, The Woman Before Me, it would have helped.

The Sacrificial Man is an unsettling read, I really can’t articulate why it didn’t affect me more strongly, especially as I do admire the plot and was reluctant to put the book down while reading. This is a dark and disturbing and if asked, I’d recommend it to readers who enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jan 13, 2014 |
After reading Dugdall's first book THE WOMAN BEFORE ME I was kind of expecting something a bit wow from THE SACRIFICIAL MAN. Which it delivered in that sort of sock removing, what the, oh boy, cook your own dinner I'm reading, kind of way.

Mind you, it's a bit on the sneaky side. The story starts out with Cate Austin out of the prison system, working her first new assignment which is a sentencing recommendation for Alice Mariani. As explained in the blurb, Mariani helped her lover to die, and she is dealing with the consequences of that on a legal and a personal level. But it is the personal that is particularly interesting Austin as Mariani doesn't quite seem to be reacting to the death or it's consequences in a way that makes sense. It's that digging into Mariani's past - both by Austin, and in the way that the author reveals the truth, that makes THE SACRIFICIAL MAN a book that's going to stay with me for quite a long time.

There are a number of extremely good aspects to this book. The subject matter of assisted suicide and the potential outcomes is going to be confrontational for some readers, but it is a very current day issue, and this is a particularly instructive approach. There's certainly nothing sensationalised, judgemental or conclusive about the treatment. There's also a very complicated storyline which is handled deftly. The timeframe shift backwards and forwards between current day, and the time when Mariani and the man who died first meet, and the arrangement that they come to. The viewpoint also shifts between Mariani, as herself and using a pseudonym (as does the dead man which is why I'm not confusing the issue here by using his name) and that of Austin. It's also not an investigation of guilt or innocence as such, as Austin is looking to provide sentencing recommendations, for a woman who has already been found guilty.

I must admit I didn't notice when THE SACRIFICIAL MAN went from being "the book that I'm reading" to "the book that I must read" but it did. Somewhere in the middle of all of that backwards and forwards, perspective switching, something happened and the back story of Alice Mariani started to explain who she was. Somewhere there a man made a decision to die, looked for support, and set up a process that he thought was fair on everyone. Somewhere the wheels fell off that and consequences ensued. And ultimately a person tries to get to the bottom of those circumstances and come up with a recommendation on how those consequences will pay out. About there I suddenly found a depth, and some messages that I'm still thinking about.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/sacrificial-man-ruth-dugdall ( )
  austcrimefiction | Dec 5, 2012 |
I'm on a bit of a psychological thriller kick at the moment and this book seemed to fit the bill perfectly. The premise sounded really interesting- if a bit grim! I was looking forward to reading about a disturbed protagonist and her questionable behaviour and the reasons for her actions, expecting a lot of comprehensive insight and detail.

The book revolves around Alice, about to be sentenced for assisted suicide- she however claims that the man she met on the internet *wanted* her help to die and his suicide note seems to purport the theory. Probation Officer Cate Austin isn't quite so sure that the case is as clean cut as it is made out to be, particularly given the man's rather gruesome end...

This was an interesting read with a few surprising twists and turns that kept me turning the pages. I don't want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling it. The storyline is however pretty macabre in places and some of the stuff in the story turned my stomach. Don't read this if you have a queasy stomach or are easily disturbed!

Alice was interesting as a protagonist, though inherently unlikeable- and we didn't learn too much about Cate either so as a consequence she felt a little bit one-dimensional. I realise Dugdall has written another book about her where this may not be the case, but generally in this novel I felt she didn't play too much of a significant role. More of the focus was on Alice, though as she was an incredibly disturbed individual a lot of what was uncovered was unpleasant and didn't make for easy reading.

Other niggles: on occaision the tense of the story abruptly switches. I found this to be confusing, though this is possibly just a case of poor editing. I would like to think that this would have been picked up by the publishers however. Also, as some of the other reviewers have already pointed out, the Kindle formatting of this book is just awful generally- a complete distraction with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Some spacing/chapter breaks would not have gone amiss on occaision. I don't know if this is the case with the paperback version but it was very off-putting for me here, personally.

I think 3 stars is an accurate rating- I liked the writing style and premise reasonably enough but some of the actual content was just disturbing enough for me to have to think twice as to whether this author was aiming for psychologically thrilling or mere shock value. Also, I felt I never really fully engaged with the characters on any level- even Alice. I also didn't really understand the point of Lee being there at all- apart from her actions towards the end. The repeated retelling of `mummy' episodes got a bit tiresome too.

Overall, not a bad read. I would read other books by this author in future, though I don't know if I would be in a massive rush to do so.

*This review also appears on Amazon.co.uk* ( )
1 vote CookieDemon | Mar 12, 2012 |
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What I want to say is that suicide is my choice. No-one else is to blame. Man seeks beautiful woman for the journey of a lifetime: Will you help me to die? When Probation Officer Cate Austin is given her new assignment, she faces the highest-profile case of her career.… (more)

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