I’d been wanting to read this book for a while, as previously mentioned, because I’d seen a very large spread on the author in the newspaper. The author sounded extremely interesting and the books even more so. Despite the fact that there are 4 books in this series, the article focused a lot on this first one, Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and the research that went into it. The author interviewed pedophiles and child sex offenders and is a clinical psychologist, an expert in psychological trauma.
The book opens with the murder of a man on a high point overlooking a pool where plenty of children play. The digital camera nearby and the fact that his fly is open give a pretty good clue that he’s not there to catch some rays. He’s the first of a series of similar murders. All are unhealthily interested in small children. All are violently bludgeoned or stabbed to death. And all are linked to a psychologist in outer western Sydney who was treating victims of all of them. Something isn’t quite right with the psychologist either – could she be the killer? Turned crusader after years of hearing trauma after trauma and having perps walk on lack of evidence? Is it a victim of an attack? A relative of a victim? There are questions and Jackson needs to find answers.
Detective Jill Jackson is a flawed protagonist who at times, seems to barely keep it together. The victim herself of a chilling and traumatic kidnapping as a child, she fights the demons that haunt her everyday by keeping to extremely strict routines (OCD), working out until she drops and barely eating enough to exist. This case touches her personally, more than it would most. From a raped transvestite that she befriends, she gets information on a group of pedophiles in Sydney who meet up to swap videos, photos and occasionally, participate in sessions with victims.
It’s a subject that raises a lot of hackles and thankfully, Giarratano keeps the descriptions of meetings and encounters with children to a bare minimum, working on the less is more type theory. She saves her best writing for the delving into Jackson’s psyche and the construction of her character. She is beautifully multi-layered and you get glimpses of her many facets: the businesslike detective. The sibling that’s full of regret. The drive to protect herself, physically, from any threat – real or perceived. The interest she has for her partner, that she cannot bring herself to ever act upon. She’s a wonderful character and I’d read the remaining books in this series for that alone, even if the writing wasn’t as tight and well done as it is.
There is one thing that I have come to view with a bit of frustration though, and that is protagonists doing stupid things. They usually involve not waiting for back up and going into situations unarmed, without back up and without much of an idea. It happens quite often in the Kathy Reichs novels, made worse by the fact that Temperance isn’t even a cop. Even though Jackson is, I did find it a tad ludicrous that she would go into that mansion alone where there were a whole heap of ‘persons of interest’, in the dark, unarmed, when her parter and a whole team was probably no more than 20-30 minutes away. It happens so often these days on TV also. I’m a veteran of Crossing Jordan, CSI, CSI:NY, Cold Case and countless others where people think nothing or running headlong into danger without a second thought and mostly in real life, it’d get you a bullet in your head for your trouble.
But that moment aside, I enjoyed this book immensely, despite the absolutely stomach-churning themes. It was amazingly well put together, pacy and interesting. I read it in one sitting before dinner, page-turning anxiously so that I wouldn’t have to put it down to eat. I’ll definitely be picking up the other books in this series. Giarratano, with her experience, sure knows how to put together nasty bad-guys and well thought out good guys.
(Book #38 of my 50 Book Challenge)
This book counts towards my 2010 Global Challenge!
The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland.
North America (incl Central America)
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.