28 August 2009

review: VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, Leah Giarratano

This is another of those book reviews originally published in July 2007 elsewhere, that I am re-publishing here.
VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE was Leah Giarratano's debut novel.

Bantam Press, July 2007

Newly promoted Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson of the New South Wales Police force has a deep hatred of paedophiles and the "squirrels" who procure children for them. When Jill was twelve years old she was abducted and held in a basement for three days. During that time she was abused by men who were never caught. Even now, over twenty years later, she has recurrent nightmares, and unpredictable panic attacks. She is very security conscious and has also developed techniques for dealing with unwanted memories. Exhaustive exercise is one of her strategies.

David Carter, paedophile and voyeur, is found beaten to death in the sand dunes where he was watching a young couple. There have been two other bashing deaths with similar MOs in the Sydney metropolitan area. Jill's colleague Scotty Hutchinson is as committed as Jill is to hunting down paedophiles. Jill and Scotty believe there are connections, perhaps even a serial killer who is hunting down paedophiles.

Mercy Merris is a psychotherapist who has treated both Jill and other trauma victims - not, it seems, particularly successfully. She is conducting a vendetta against those involved in paedophile rings, particularly those known to have been responsible for the misery of some of her patients. Her patients tend to be survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE seems to me to be rather thickly populated with unpleasant characters, including a colleague of Jill's, whose brother she gaoled in the amphetamine bust that resulted in her promotion. Jill has many enemies and needs all her physical and mental strength to win through.

The subject matter of this novel is extremely unpleasant. We are told that VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, "though inspired by real Australian crimes, is a work of fiction". Author Leah Giarratano is a psychologist who has obviously drawn on her experiences in working with victims of sexual offences. In this, her debut novel, the plot is tightly constructed, and the action violent. However for me Jill Jackson is just a little too larger than life. At 34 years of age, too many bad things have happened to her. I am surprised that she actually made it into the New South Wales Police force, although Giarratano has built a very strong case for this being her mission in life. Giarratano's next book is due to be released in July 2008.

July 2007 review, originally published on Murder and Mayhem
My rating: 4.2

I've also reviewed VOODOO DOLL (2008)


Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks as always for your thorough review. You make a really well-taken point about the "larger than life" detective. I've always thought that sleuths should be believable as people as well as sleuths. Thanks for pointing that out. It sounds like a worthwhile read, though, so thanks for the comments.

Kerrie said...

I'm currently reading the third in the series Margo, and I certainly thought the 2nd was better than the first, although many people heaped accolades on VODKA.. too.

Margot Kinberg said...

I often wonder if writers of mystery series get better as the series goes on. I've heard it said of many series that the second and third are better than the first..

Australian Online Bookshop said...

fantastic review once again. I really do enjoy Giarratano's work and think she is one of the best in her field. Thank you for the review.


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