All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Frantic – Katherine Howell

Katherine Howell
Pan Macmillan AU
2007, 282p
Read from my local library

Sophie is a paramedic and her husband a city police officer. As a gang of bank robbers terrorise the city and taunt the police force’s inability to capture them, Chris faces pressure from the public, sensitive to their scrutiny. Now there’s some suspicion that there are police involved within the gang after a phone call to the media. When Chris is found shot in the head on the doorstep of their home and their 10 month old son Lachlan missing, Sophie’s life is ripped apart.

Both she and Chris believe themselves guilty for the abduction of Lachlan – Chris seeing it as a warning to keep quiet and Sophie seeing it as retaliation for a job that went wrong. Detective Ella Marconi begins investigating the disappearance of the baby, knowing that to find him and quickly is crucial. Whilst she is doing all she can on the official end, Sophie is out driving the streets, looking for Lachlan alone. She’s functioning on raw adrenaline, getting no food or sleep and to keen an eye on her, Chris’s partner Angus Arendson rides along with her, the two of them coming up with ways to search places using their jobs.

Time is running out for everyone – Chris and Sophie, both caught up in their own guilt and the terrible situations they both find themselves in, are struggling desperately to convince the people they think are guilty to give back their son. Which one of them is on the right track? Or are they both wrong and the real culprit someone they never even considered?

As I mentioned in my review of The Brotherhood yesterday, my original list for the Australian Women Writers Challenge lacked some crime fiction and a fellow reviewer gave some recommendations. One of those was  Cold Justice, by Katherine Howell which is the 3rd novel in the Detective Ella Marconi series. So I went back and requested the first in the series, which is this one and read it in a couple of hours.

Like Y.A. Erskine calling upon her years in the Tasmanian Police Force for The Brotherhood, Katherine Howell calls upon years working as a paramedic. Sophie works in inner-Sydney and the book starts with a day for her and her partner Mick, attending call outs and the various sorts of duties they provide. Her husband Chris is a cop and when Sophie and Mick are called to a bank, the latest victim in a spate of robberies, she finds Chris on site desperately performing CPR on a fatally wounded security guard.

Chris and Sophie have been having some problems since Chris was assaulted on the job some months ago and Sophie found herself making the biggest mistake of her life. Because of their problems, the two of them can find little time to talk to each other, really talk and after Chris is shot outside their home, their lack of communication results in them believing that they are each responsible for the disappearance of their son and also, that they are the ones who will be able to find him, or have him returned. Sophie does what probably any mother would do (or would want to do) and just goes haring off on her own, driving the streets, looking, stopping anyone with a pram, bordering on the verge of hysteria. When your child goes missing, especially if you believe yourself responsible, then it would be next to impossible to just sit and wait and hope that the police were able to find him. She’s tired, traumatised but also manic and she’s perfectly ripe to be taken advantage of.

Frantic is not a long novel, weighing in at under 300p but the author packs a lot into it and the pace is lightning quick. We spend most of the time with Sophie, despite this being the first in the Detective Ella Marconi series – at the time she seems nothing more than a supporting character, brought in to co-ordinate the search for the child and liase with Sophie on what is happening. We learn little about her, but given there are now five installments in this series, partnering Marconi up with what appears to be different paramedics each time, I’m guessing that over the course of the series, we will find out much more and she will become more fleshed out and real to the reader. In this first part she seems little more than just a token detective, given that so much of the focus is on Sophie, establishing her and her husband and their family dynamic and then destroying it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – the focus on two very fascinating job such as inner-city policing and paramedics with plenty of realistic detail and an action packed, well-paced and executed plot. I’m very much looking forward to working my way through the rest of the titles in the series and have already requested the second one. I loved the combination of police and ambulance officers which is definitely new for me. I’ve read many police procedurals but I think almost nothing on paramedics as a main focus. It’s always nice to find something a bit different and interesting. Definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes a good crime novel. It really does an excellent job of also making you put yourself in Sophie’s shoes and question just how far you would go if it were your child (or someone you love dearly) that had been taken.


Book #82 of 2012

Frantic is the 30th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.