Book name: The Sinner
Author: Caroline England
Format: Print, ebook
Genre: Psychological thriller
Publication Date: 2022
Star Rating: 4/5
The Sinner is a domestic thriller with a decidedly noir touch that really comes out at the end.
Dee Stephens is a vicar’s wife. She married a much older man after falling pregnant and becoming infatuated with him.
However, Vincent is a controlling husband who is also profoundly neglectful of his wife’s needs.
It’s a toxic combination, so the reader is neither surprised nor judgemental when Dee forms a friendship with an old school friend, Cal Rafferty, who’s back in town after a decade and a half away.
In fact, so much time has passed that Dee doesn’t recognise him at first.
The affair builds slowly from friendship, and Dee feels empowered and seen for the first time in decades.
Courtesy of everyone taking Dee for granted in a very dehumanising way, no one in her life actually cares where she goes when she disappears for hours.
I was deeply shocked at how nasty Dee’s mother-in-law and husband were towards her.
I was more accepting of Dee’s teenage daughter Abbey’s lashing out at her mum and lionising her father, because that’s not entirely unusual for that age group.
Dee was a very likeable character who I longed to see reclaim her old self, the confident and glamorous young woman she was before she fell into the clutches of Vincent.
Meanwhile, Dee’s sister Mariana is thrilled by imminent parenthood. Her partner Britt is pregnant.
However, Mariana worries that Britt will find life raising a new baby boring compared with the partying and socialising she is used to.
Dee is sent anonymous photos of her meeting Cal in his car, so she begins to worry that her secret will come out.
The Sinner was very well structured. The true darkness only came out towards the end. This gave the rest of the story plenty of room for us to witness the casual cruelty towards Dee by her mother-in-law and her husband that has robbed her of her confidence and made an affair seem like the only way out.
It was essential that we had enough time to see this so that we could understand Dee’s desperation.
It’s always a shame when women don’t support each other, especially where a man is concerned. Harriet’s unquestioning adoration of her son is suggested as part of the reason for Vincent’s behaviour. Yet I yearned to see Vincent take responsibility for himself and for the reader to see beyond blaming Harriet for her son’s limitations.
On the plus side, Abbey has a transformational narrative arc and there is hope that Dee and her daughter can build a stronger relationship in the future.
The Sinner was dark. It definitely falls into the category of domestic thriller and ‘noir’ pretty much sums it up when it comes to categorising the story. The vicarage setting was the perfect foil to the menacing character and action that lay below.
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