Author: Leah Giarratano
Publisher: Bantam 2007
This is one of those books. One of those mega-marketed, multi-stickered books that I put off reading because I figured it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype and I’d end up disappointed. Again.
Happily I was wrong.
Not that the book is a happy one mind you. The subject matter is skin-crawlingly awful enough to make any sane person consider the merits of the death penalty and/or becoming an armed vigilante. When several men are brutally bashed to death Police discover the men have all been accused of child molestation at some point. The somewhat reluctant investigation into the murders uncovers an entire club of such men who swap photographs, movies and children amongst themselves for their particular sick and sordid pleasures.
The plot is logical and contains no extraneous material which is an increasingly rare thing in this age of books the size (and weight) of house bricks. There are one or two passages, e.g. the incident at the prison, that almost push the story into “I can’t believe all that would happen to one human being” territory but they’re only short and they stretched my credulity rather than breaking it. Irrespective of them the build-up of suspense is perfectly timed and kept me awake long past my bed time. Besides, it’s all set in one of my favourite places on earth and Giarratano has captured the feel of the beachside suburbs of inner Sydney to a tee which makes up for any slight imperfections.
But it’s the characters in this book that are truly memorable. There’s Jill Jackson: an imperfect but very believable heroine who tackles the things she is afraid of despite her fears. Her white eyed companion is also perfectly written. But Giarratano hasn’t stopped with her main character. She’s written totally credibly in the voice of a kidnapped 11-year old boy, a transvestite and the most disturbing bunch of villains you’ll ever meet. For the record it will be Jamaal Mahmoud with his simmering violence and contemptuous hatred for every person he encounters who will inhabit my nightmares. Every passage in which he appears is terrifying. The kind of terrifying where a reader might close her eyes tightly while humming Walking on Sunshine and imagining pictures of puppy dogs before the dark thoughts consume her (I’m not saying I did that, just that some other, fraidy-cat reader might react that way).
For once the marketing was right: this is a killer read. It’s my new favourite book of the year (so far).
(this review was originally posted to my Good Reads account when I read the book on 19 Aug 2008, I’ve included it here in readiness for the discussion about the book at the Oz Mystery Readers yahoo group in November 2008)