After the events in Vodka Doesn’t Freeze and her part in bringing down the pedophile ring, Jill Jackson is promoted and that leads to her being invited to work on a task force based out of Liverpool in south-western Sydney. A fish out of water, far from her comfort base of Maroubra on the other side of Sydney, Jill also has to meet a whole group of new colleagues and also adjust to having a new partner. Her old partner Scotty she’d come to trust but Jill doesn’t trust people easily and she’s feeling the strain of having to meet and become involved with new people.
The task force has been established to apprehend a gang who are subjecting Sydney to home-invasions, each one more vicious and violent than the last. Originally victims were tied up and guarded whilst other members looted the house, then victims were subjected to bashings and cuttings. The last home invasion has led to someone being carried out in two body bags, hacked to pieces by the sadistic leader and the pressure is on from the media and the public for the task force to find this gang and bring them all to justice so that residents can feel safe again.
In a task force numbering five including the senior officer in charge, Jill is paired with Gabriel Delahunt, a Federal Investigation Officer who specialises in interrogation techniques. Despite her past leading her to usually distance herself, even professionally, from people, she finds herself working well with Delahunt and even relaxing around him, something that is almost unheard of for her. Her usual strict exercise regime has slipped too, since putting some childhood demons to rest and she finds herself mellowing out in more ways than one, feeling safer in herself than she has since the fateful day long ago that changed her life forever.
It isn’t long until the task force is given a name to investigate via an anonymous tip off to the hotline set up for the public to call with information. They know who they’re looking for, they know his violent past and his connection (inadvertent) to one of the victims of the home invasions. Can the task force find him before he goes after the one person that knows who he is and that he is the one behind these vicious crimes? Or will he act out his sadistic need to cut on yet another victim before the police can intervene?
I always know when I open one of these novels that I’m going to be squirming in my seat occasionally. They deal with some pretty ugly topics (the first being pedophilia, this one being a vicious gangster who likes to slice and dice both himself and others for his sexual pleasure) but I also know I’m going to get a brilliantly executed story. They’re compelling, exciting and make you confront the more seedier parts of the Australian crime underbelly. Giarratano is a criminal psychologist who has worked with both victims and criminals and clearly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to portraying both in her novels.
Jill experiences some real character growth from the previous novel to this one – she’s still quiet and socially awkward, reluctant to get close to people and let her guard down but she seems to find herself doing it anyway. And no one is more surprised than she is when she finds herself doing things like eating meals with her new work partner in her apartment soon after they meet and relaxing enough in his home that she finds herself drifting off to sleep. Completely unheard of for her in the past. She’s more likable in this book as she starts to soften up a bit and become more than just a victim who lives a strict life of control and order in order to feel like she is running her own life. However she’s bemused and sometimes a bit concerned by these changes within herself, rather than comfortable with them so I’m not sure how long they’ll last and if she’ll continue to relax in further novels. I think part of her appeal as a different sort of protagonist is that she is disturbed and still traumatised from her terrible childhood event which makes her instincts honed to a fine point and makes her the cop she is. I wouldn’t like to see her change so much that she’s just like everyone else because her spiky and neurotic character contribute to what makes these novels exceptional.
When I first read that this book saw Jill departing to another station with her promotion I felt a bit ripped off because I had come to really like her partner Scotty from Vodka Doesn’t Freeze but I was pleased to find Scotty does still pop up here and there and that I also really enjoyed the addition of Gabriel Delahunt, the Fed with a tragedy in his own past. He and Jill certainly made a formidable team and it was nice to see them slipping into comfortable roles with each other rather than us getting a whole book of them being awkward and polite while they got to know each other. I find myself hoping that Delahunt reappears in future books and we get to spend some more time getting into his head.
As always the villain was suitably skin-crawling and made me think about making sure my doors were securely locked at night, even though I was reading this in the broad light of day! I think that I’d have been a bit of a sook if I’d been reading this late at night, home on my own while the husband was still at work! I’m not usually scared in books but I have to admit some of the ideas in this book were quite uncomfortable – the ease with which the gang broke into houses and assaulted the occupants was disturbing to say the least.
I have the next book in this series, Black Ice (which from the title is about drugs, at a guess) on my shelf to read at some stage during this month as well. Reading Voodoo Doll and then Black Ice will also knock two titles off my TBR pile that have been there for some time so I’m happy to be moving books from that shelf to the already-read pile.