Sandra Ireland weaves a tale of magic and the supernatural in this first ‘Sarah Sutherland Thriller’. Sarah is in her mid-forties, single, and stuck in a dead-end supermarket job. She is also lone carer to her elderly father, John. Her life lacks any form of excitement or unpredictability. Her one passion in life is to uncover historical facts. She weaves these facts into stories that she shares on her weekly historical tour walks.
Ireland’s portrayal of Sarah is instantly relatable. She could be your friend, or your neighbour. She is one of us, and it is easy to sympathise with her very everyday existence. Through her research into the past, Sarah becomes attached to a woman, Alie Gowdie, who lived in the very same house as her centuries previously. Gowdie was accused of witchcraft and relations with the Devil, branded the ‘Kilgour Witch’ by a Reverend Wilkie and executed in 1648. Sarah is determined to find out a bit more about the witchhunt. She then comes across the Reverend’s personal journals. Very soon, it is evident that something more sinister is at play.
This novel seems like it might go down the supernatural route at points but Ireland’s deft writing ensures that the narrative remains firmly grounded in the present. There are two narratives – Sarah’s and John’s. John’s point-of-view serves the important role of offering Sarah’s character through his lens while flashbacks help Sarah reconcile her own life and its mysteries. Who is committing petty theft at her supermarket? Is someone really bothering her father? And what should she do about her new suitor, the cocky Grant? While Sarah deals with all this and her personal insecurities, she must set some of it aside to make way for Gowdie’s remarkable story.
There is something noble about retelling the witchcraft stories. So many women who never had a voice, suffered incredible torture and died at the hands of injustice – their stories need told. Sight Unseen sets some of that right.