Lesley Kara

Midwinter Sacrifice

"'...a book that delivers a punch in the solar plexus and will leave you reeling... '"


When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back.

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

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‘The Rumour’ tackles the issue of what happens to those who kill and how they cope with life and their new identities when they have been released. This has big echoes of the infamous Mary Bell case of 1968 and the killing that happens in Kara’s debut happens only a year later in 1969. There is always a stigma about anyone who has killed before. Will they kill again? If it was a child, is any child near that particular person safe? Kara plays with these issues in the setting of a psychological drama. Placed firmly under ‘Domestic Noir’, Kara shows how one simple rumour can cause a tsunami of distrust and panic. Joanna finds herself centre stage as she was the one to vocalise the rumour and soon finds herself earmarked on social media for poking her nose where it shouldn’t be. There is a morale question here that Kara sets: should the perpetrator who has by rights served their time be allowed to live quietly under an assumed pseudonym, or should they be shown for what they have done to the unsuspecting people who live within the vicinity? It is a tough question to call. I know they are extreme examples, but would anyone want someone like Rose West or Myra Hindley living next door? Is their crime any greater or lesser a travesty than someone who only killed the once? Is it less of a crime if they are convicted of manslaughter rather than murder? Are we more outraged if the victim is a child than an adult? It is all food for thought as Kara unravels her disturbing tale. Joanna is personable enough even though I did at times get frustrated with her that she could show an immaturity that belied her years. Plus, although some minutiae of daily life builds a background to the characters, I really didn’t feel the need to know if you should use one or two poo bags to pick up dog mess, or the correct term for a dog eating another dog’s poo! Hardly life's dilemmas and it did tend to deflect fro the main thrust of Kara's story. There are several twists which are very clever and I did not see, which is always good when one reads so much crime fiction and can normally see the signposts a mile away. One of the twists was clever, even if a little melodramatic, but Kara adds a sting in her tale right on the last page which is a little zinger. ‘The Rumour’ is a book that delivers a punch to the solar plexus and will leave you reeling by the end of it. A gripping and thought-provoking novel that will have many talking about it!

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