19 September 2008

Review: VOODOO DOLL, Leah Giarratano

Random House Australia, 2008, 303 pages, ISBN 978-1-86325-614-8

A dinner at the boss's place becomes a nightmare: a home invasion with one of the intruders wielding a machete. One of the victims is pretty sure that he recognises the man with the machete despite the fact that he is wearing a balaclava. In the moment of recognition when their eyes locked, he was pretty sure the invader recognised him too.

The Sydney police know there have been at least five brutal home invasions in the last month, each more violent than the previous. They are almost sure that the invasions are being carried out by the same gang, and that the increasing violence is being perpetrated by just one or two members of the gang.

Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson, whom we met in the first in the series, VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, has been shifted from comfortable Maroubra to Sydney's Western suburbs to be part of a newly formed Home Invasion Task Force. Not only does the new job mean a long commute to work, it also means she has to learn to work with a new partner. Jill's new partner is Gabriel Delahunt, a Federal police agent seconded to the taskforce because of his interviewing skills. Jill has to re-establish herself and again prove herself worthy in her male dominated profession, and her first impression is that working with Gabriel is not going to be easy.

VOODOO DOLL is a real page turner. Each of the major characters is carrying a legacy of traumatic events that affects the way they relate to other people. Their traumas surface in nightmares, waking dreams, and flashbacks. As the police narrow their net and identify the home invaders, the tension builds. The major characters, police and civilian, each attempt to locate the psychopathic leader of the home invaders before he strikes again. The author's experience as a clinical psychologist working with offenders who have severe personality disorders displays itself in realistic scenarios.

This novel has an authentic Australian flavour and feel to it. It isn't just conveyed in the setting, in the way the characters treat each other, but also in the language used. VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE was remarkably accomplished for a debut novel, but VOODOO DOLL demonstrates that Leah Giarratano is a force to be reckoned with in Australian crime fiction. VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE was long-listed for the 2008 Ned Kelly Awards for Best First Fiction, and I won't be at all surprised if VOODOO DOLL is long-listed for Best Fiction in 2009.

My review of VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE is available on Reviewer's Choice.

My rating: 4.8


maxine said...

Sounds great. I wonder how long it will take to reach these distant shores (UK)?

Kerrie said...

Send me a snail mail address and I'll send it to you Maxine by surface mail. kerrie.smith@esc.net.au


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