Sunday 15 December 2019

Book review : The Sacrificial Man - Ruth Dugdall

The Sacrificial Man is Ruth Dugdall's second novel featuring probation officer Cate Austin in a new case. You can read my review of her first book in the series, The Woman Before Me, here, but this book can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel if you don't know the first one. The author worked as a Probation Officer herself for almost a decade, working in high security prisons with numerous high-risk criminals, and this personal experience gives her work great authenticity and credibility.

In this case, Cate comes up against a young, well-educated, professional woman called Alice Mariani, who is charged with the assisted suicide of a man she met online. Cate must get to know Alice and her motivations, deciding whether it was indeed assisted suicide or something a lot more sinister and suggesting a suitable punishment for her - a prison sentence ? A hospital stay and psychological help ? Was this a one-off or is she a threat to society ?

Just as Cate must do, delving into Alice's past life and the things that led up to the death, the book goes right back to the start, revealing Cate's tricky childhood and adoption. We follow her early years, getting glimpses of events and relationships that may have influenced the woman she grew into. Her relationship with Smith, the victim, is very unconventional but actually seems to make both of them happy. What makes a man want to kill himself? And, perhaps more importantly, what makes a woman want to help him ? Was he really as innocent as he appeared? It's all very complicated, and Cate has her work cut out trying to understand how it all came to pass.

It's an interesting story and I really enjoyed following Cate digging into the background and trying to understand everything. I didn't actually like either of the main characters, as they both seemed too self-important and manipulative, which was a shame. The ending was a surprise and not what I expected, so I won't give the game away - you'll have to read it to find out !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (29 Nov. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908248009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908248008
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.8 cm


  1. I saw the blurb of the book in an email from Legend Press, and was wondering whether I should read/review it. It does sound gripping.

  2. Yes - great review - one for 2020 book list


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