The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall (Cate Austin#2)

About the Author

Ruth studied English at university and then took an MA in Social Work. Following this she worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker and then as a probation officer. Part of this time was spent seconded to a prison housing serious offenders. She continues to work within the Criminal Justice System, most recently in Luxembourg.


Ruth Dugdall manages to explore certain areas and ethical dilemmas that you would rather not think about. All three of her books tackles subjects you wouldn’t think of otherwise and make for uncomfortable reading. This book is part of the Cate Austin series but you do not necessarily have to read it in the order of the series though there might be some references that you won’t get.

The premise of this story is simple and pretty straightforward – Cate Austin is a probation officer and she has been assigned a high profile case. She has to investigate Alice Mariani who is charged with assisted suicide because she helped her boyfriend kill himself through a drug overdose. There is a suicide note written by her boyfriend clearly stating that Alice should not be implicated and she was simply carrying out his orders. Cate has to interview her and write up an appropriate sentence befitting the crime and present a recommendation to the judge basis which the judge sentences and decides whether Alice deserves prison or just community service.

Cate herself has to face some tough life questions as she tries to look at this case in an objective manner. Why did he want to kill himself? Was he terminally ill? Why did Alice eat a part of him? Was it a ritual or something darker? Is it okay for a person to decide when to die? Is the person who decided to help part of the problem or is it not a problem at all – just different because it doesn’t conform to the way society thinks? This doesn’t focus too much on euthanasia as a concept but the lengths people can go to because of their warped sense of loyalty and love for someone. Alice is not a likeable character. She is dark, cold and disdainful of others. She watched her mother die and was adopted by parents who were very normal though she did not reciprocate the love they gave her. She is an egomaniac, selfish and her relationship with Smith (the victim) is downright disturbing.

If you are looking for a read that leaves with a strange aftertaste and discomfort, this is the book for you.

Ruth Dugdall tackles these issues delicately but keeps the pace of the novel  There are no moments where you feel like the book lags and there is no point where you want to put the book down except to loosen up your shoulders that have been tensed all thetime you have been reading it.