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Roots of Evil

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  464 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Lucy Trent is accustomed to having the legend of her glamorous grandmother unearthed from time to time. Lucretia von Wolff was an infamous silent-screen start whose life ended abruptly in a bizarre double murder and suicide at the Ashwood film studios in 1952. When a bodybrutalized in a macabre echo of the 50-year-old case is found in the now derelict studios, disturbing f ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published January 1st 2005)
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Jan 25, 2012 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Rayne's books were recommended to me as 'a slightly trashier Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell.' I like Vine and Rendell (who apparently are the same person), so I figured this book would be like an Egg McMuffin-- a good junky snack made with substandard yet tasty ingredients, crafted by a machine.

Well. It was a terrible book but I stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing it. And now I can't wait to read Rayne's The Dark Dividing. What this says about me, I don't know.

Not great, not good, has cover art
Mary Gilligan-Nolan
This was the usual Sarah Rayne format, past and present told in one story. The premise of the story was of a family whose grandmother was a famous film actress in the 1920's/30's, called Lucretia von Wolff, who was the center of scandal her entire life, and who was infamous for killing her husband/long-time lover and a man who was said to have also been her lover and then killing herself, at the film studio where she was making a movie, in 1952. Lucretia was also linked to a child called Alraune ...more
Warning: Holocaust fiction ahead

I read A Dark Dividing a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I decided to try another one of Sarah Rayne's books. I chose Roots of Evil somewhat randomly (mostly because I thought the cover was interesting). I'm sorry I did, because I didn't like Roots of Evil much at all. The book wasn't bad, but it wasn't for me.

I didn't realize before starting Roots of Evil that the story is partially set in a concentration camp. Obviously, that's my fault for not fully rea
Cat Pilcher
May 31, 2016 Cat Pilcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"When you have been living in hell you will take the devil himself to bed..."

A murder has been committed. In the same place and same fashion of a double homicide fifty years ago, where infamous Lucretia von Wolff took her own life to escape the perils of the gallows for the double homicide she committed. The past has been laid to rest, however there are some pasts that never rest, and some truths that people will go at desperate lengths to remain hidden.

"Just another illusion, my dear"

Roots of e
May 13, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Sarah Rayne. The first thing I have to say about her is that she is an intelligent writer and a stylist. It is a pleasure just to read the words and see what she does with sentences, and even more, with description.

In Roots of Evil, a gruesome murder/suicide involving a notorious film star (from the 20's to the 50's) is shaking up her descendents. There are subplots which gradually merge. As with all of Rayne's books that I have read, there are gothic, ghostly qualities, sometim
Here's what I'm beginning to recognize as elements of a Rayne novel: everyone is important; everything fits together, everything is about five hundred times more complex than I first thought.

I don't want to give anything away, because while it is foremost a novel of suspense, there is also a mystery element. But there is an old house, there is murder, there is a baroness, Lucretia von Wolff, dressed in silk and velvet. The reason it's wonderful is that Rayne goes back and forth in time, the thir
I just finished reading this book today (August 4th 2008) and I have to say that it was definitely a fascinating story. I'm not sure I could call the writing utterly compelling or awesome, but I still think it was a great story. There were quite a few typos throughout this edition of the book, and my typing fingers were itching to correct them. Also, there were a few sentences I wouldn't have minded rewording.

I thought the style of the story, jumping around from point of view to point of view (i
Tracy Terry
Apr 26, 2013 Tracy Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By no means the easiest of reads, Roots Of Evil is definitely a contender for the most confusing and possibly frustrating book I have ever read.

Flitting back and forth between present day England and 'cousins' Lucy and Edmund, 1920's Vienna and the 'birth' of the enigmatic Lucretia von Wolff, and the concentration camp of Auschwitz was difficult enough but even more confusing was that the whole novel reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle that slowly, piece by piece, is seemingly coming together to rev
I read this book as part of my mystery book club. The story is pretty dark--I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the title and the cover of the book. It's not really a mystery, though. Nor is it much of a detective story. While there are some mysterious elements in the story, there isn't a clear sense that you should want to or be trying to figure out the mystery. It kind of sneaks up on you.

The plot is told in two parallel parts. The first part takes place in the present day, with a couple c
Vickly Moe
Aug 16, 2012 Vickly Moe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The descriptive story telling makes me feel like I was there. I can feel the eeriness of the place Rayne trying to show and almost can hear the rain and feel the mud around the abandoned studio. Though I cannot recall the name of the girl who experienced a horrid situation and abuse, I can still recall of how the author describe the feelings and the thought vividly. The largest memory I could produced is the darkness of this story and it's the descriptive story telling makes it feel real, alive ...more
2nd January, 2011

A disturbing read! This was a story that was well written and engrossing, I found myself wanting to read just a few more pages to find out what happened. This is obviously what you want in a mystery/murder. My only reservation is the setting of a lot of the book in Auschwitz concentration camp. I always feel a little uncomfortable when the awful acts that took place in these dreadful places are used in works of fiction, it somehow seems that the evil events are diminished. There
Jul 15, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great vacation read

Sarah Rayne Is a favorite of mine., and this book definitely met my expectations. The Auschwitz portions were perhaps a little less heinous than the actual events, but they did fit in with the story. The book about Alraune does exist, although it was hard to find information in English.
Joan Harthan
Didn't get very far with it. Large book. Concentration needed to keep track of all the characters. When one character gouged out the eyes of another, with graphic description, I stopped reading. It seemed stupidly gory to me - though I appreciate some people might like that.
Lily Mulholland
Wow, it's rare I give a book one star. Unfortunately, I didn't like anything about this book. Perhaps it improved slightly at the 3/4 mark, but the ending was so pat/trite that I could not, in all conscience, give this more than one star. Stab me through the eyeball with a stiletto.
Jul 17, 2011 Hilary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
Someone, somewhere recced Sarah Rayne, so I bunged a bunch of her titles on my Amazon wishlist and three of them turned up on my birthday. Yay! This one's decidedly un-cosy, involving as it does numerous people being murdered by being stabbed through the eyes, a mass rape and, oh, yes, the Holocaust. I would never have bought it if I'd known any of that, and had to squint in a few places to make the print blurry so I could get through the nastier bits, but I enjoyed (most of) it very much in spi ...more
Alissa Lever
Sep 17, 2016 Alissa Lever rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was pleasantly surprised by this book- 3.5 stars - not the most engaging writing style but the plot was very interesting and i enjoyed the way the past was gradually revealed.
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It wasn't quite the mystery that A Dark Dividing was and the plot wasn't quite as intricately developed but there was a similar layering effect to and an element of mystery that I found quite fascinating. It was just really terrific! I loved the inclusion of WWII, but I admit I was surprised that as dark as this novel was, it didn't go even darker... Still, I really liked it. It was nearly as impossible to put down as A Dark Dividing was. What a talented aut ...more
Sep 07, 2012 Satudo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

The first book I've read by Sarah Rayne, but I might read others now as well. Roots of Evil was an exciting read with lots of characters set during different periods of the 20th century. It was a mix between a whodunit, a family saga, a horror story and a war time drama. If that sounds as many things all together, that's exactly what it was. I felt Rayne sometimes tried to cramp too much into one book. Nevertheless, she managed to bring an intriguing story mainly revolving around a charismatic
Beth Ann
Jun 25, 2015 Beth Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book that I really enjoyed. Well written and kept me intrigued. Definitely will read more from Sarah Rayne
I really enjoyed Roots of Evil and the last half in particular I found impossible to put down! I LOVED Lucretia von Wolff; I thought she was fabulous! Reading about Auschwitz was disturbing (even though this is a fictional story) and it certainly got me thinking about the bleak existance those poor people faced during the war. Infact I have been thinking about it all day. As far as this story goes though it was fast paced, brilliantly written with a few unexpected surprises and a very satisfying ...more
May 16, 2010 Margaret rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Came across Sarah Rayne's name while I was looking for something else and thought I'd give her a try - her books sounded like they could be fun summer thrillers for the bus or plane, but based on the fifty pages or so I got through of this one it was wasn't even entertaining in a kind of awful way, just bad. Imagine a less competent VC Andrews. Rayne seems to have a pretty good imagination for plot, if a bit slasher-film-sensationalist, but wow the execution is terrible, it's almost physically p ...more
Rebecca Carlsen
Feb 16, 2012 Rebecca Carlsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A murder mystery with a difference, Sarah Rayne's "Roots of Evil" was an interesting read. Spanning WW2 concentration camps to modern-day dark family secrets, with glamorous silent movie stars and evil Nazi's. The secret at the heart of the story involves a German black and white silent horror movie, "Alraune" (which really exists and can be found on You Tube!). The author normally writes horror stories and this book did have the feel of a gothic horror novel. I really enjoyed it.
Alyssa Robert
This took me way too long to get through. I enjoyed the beginning and loved the second half, but the middle could've been condensed a bit. I almost stopped it halfway through and I'm so glad I didn't, but it was a slow middle part.
Jun 12, 2013 Shar rated it really liked it
This has been on my TBR list for over 2 years, have I been avoiding reading it? well if I have I am sorry I have taken so long to read it. I really enjoyed this book, it keeps you gripped from the first page to the very last page, trying to work out who did what and why? I won't give anything away as it would ruin it for anybody wanting to read it. A good range of character.

Would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a good murder mystery story.
Sharon Hardin
Jul 03, 2012 Sharon Hardin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Sarah Rayne book that I checked out from the library when one I was looking for wasn't available. The story sounded intriguing, but I didn't have high expectations because of the cover, which I still dislike and believe is misleading. The story is unusual and well plotted, had enough surprises and suspense to keep me interested, and I'll be looking for more of Rayne's novels.
I have absolutely no idea why I expected this to be a ghost story,well, it wasn't. Nevertheless, it was still a good book. I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of it at the beginning but it was well-paced and didn't feel as long. While I'm certain, I won't read it again, I can't say I felt like wasting my time, the story was captivating with a lot of twists and stays that way until the end.
Claire Bird
Oct 26, 2009 Claire Bird rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating...really indepth and well written - definately a page turner the more you got into it. Very intriging. I just could not put it down. The way it interlinked between current times and the olden days...especially at the end when Alice was explaining what happened at the studio. Very good book - defo read it again xxx
Jan 26, 2009 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not too bad a story and there are lots of sub-plots going on throughout the book.
People are not who they seem and it all stems back to an old film star, who supposedly murdered two men, and then killed herself (or so everyone was led to believe).
Lucretia Von Wolff, the actress, is not her real name either.
Mar 14, 2015 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the first Sarah Rayne book that I read and will not be the last. To be honest, I had never heard of Sarah Rayne until I came across this book in the local charity shop. Found it a page turner and was unable to put down until I had finished.
Sarah Williams
Feb 01, 2012 Sarah Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another fantastic mystery from Sarah Rayne. She's a dark writer and there are some disturbing scenes but she creates some really fascinating tales with wonderful twists. I love the way she intertwines the past and the present. Couldn't put this book down!
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Aka Frances Gordon, Bridget Wood

After a convent education, which included writing plays for the Lower Third to perform, Sarah Rayne embarked on a variety of jobs, but - probably inevitably - returned again and again to writing. Her first novel appeared in 1982, and since then her books have also been published in America, Holland and Germany.

The daughter of an Irish comedy actor, she was for many
More about Sarah Rayne...

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