Sainted in Error by Glenda Winders
Genres: Literary Fiction, Murder Mystery
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Publisher: Subplot – Mascot Books
Received as a E-ARC via NetGalley

“What do you wear when you testify against your best friend as she goes on trial for murder?”

Glenda Winders, Sainted in Error

Synopsis blurb from Mascot Books:

Maggie and Cynthia meet as college freshmen and are seemingly destined to be best friends for life. As the years pass, however, Maggie’s marriage and career lift her to success and wealth while Cynthia’s jealousy and untreated mental illness cause their relationship to disintegrate. As the stories of the two women’s lives unfold, Cynthia’s paranoia and anger sour every relationship she has and turn even the people who have loved her most against her, ultimately bubbling over into an event that Maggie never sees coming.

Not a murder mystery in the usual sense, and spanning time and space, Sainted in Error delves into the tenacity of friendship and the damage that the stigma still attached to mental illness can do.

I wish I knew how to categorize this novel. A murder mystery doesn’t seem quite right, even though, yes, there is a murder. But Sainted In Error, goes beyond the typical expectations of murder mystery and as the narration goes back in time in order to see what led to the ultimate unraveling and choice of murder, there are depths and and complicated relationships at the heart of it.

This story introduces Maggie and Cynthia meeting as freshman in college in the early 1970s (the story spans into the early 2000s), watches them both fall in love for the first time, first heartbreaks, finding love again, bringing children into the world, finding careers and life paths. And in between everything is the rupturing and wearing down of a friendship that become toxic, abusive, manipulative, and ultimately, deadly.

What I loved most about this book was Winders ability to show what it is like to have a toxic relationship that spans decades. Though Maggie is telling the story, we see clearly how much Cynthia is a part of it and gets deeply intertwined in it. Even when living in different states, in experiencing different lives, reading the story unfold and seeing how Cynthia pulls Maggie back in, how their friendship gets barbed and twisted over the years, seeing it rupture, examining the emotional shrapnel over time, it’s truly done well.

The hardest part of this book to review is the mental illness and bipolar disorder suggestion. As someone with various mental health disorders, I do tend to overanalyze when mental illness is concerned, and even after taking some time to think about what I want to say, I still can’t formulate the words. It was hard to read. Cynthia was a character I recognize in family members who remain undiagnosed, Maggie’s defense and years long friendship is deeply relatable, and damn is it difficult to watch the consequences play out in this story. At the end of the day, I really am glad to have read this book and will read more by Winders.

I would like to give content warning for racist behavior/slurs against Asian women, ableism regarding bipolar disorder, some fatphobic remarks, some scenes of explicit and implicit domestic violence, and emotional abuse towards friends and lovers.

Thank you to Glenda Winders, Mascot Books, and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for a honest review. Sainted In Error is set to be published today, February 1, 2022.