When a middle-aged man is brutally murdered in the dunes overlooking a children's pool, it's immediately clear to Sergeant Jill Jackson that this was no ordinary victim: someone has stopped a dangerous paeodophile in his tracks. Knowing first-hand the impact of such men on their prey, Jill is ambivalent about pursing the killer, but when more men die - all known to the police as child sex offenders - she is forced to face the fact that a serial killer is on the loose.
As the investigation deeps, Jill unearths a long-established Sydney paeodophile ring - a club of wealthy men who have thought until now that they are untouchable. Despite the deaths of some of its members the club is still operating, and until Jill can shut it down children are still in grave danger. As she faces predators and their victims, a psychotherapist losing her mind, and her own nightmares come to life, Jill is forced to decide whether or not she really wants to catch this killer.
Leah Giarratano is a trauma psychologist based in Sydney. Among her clients have been victims of sexual abuse and men serving sentences for child abuse. VODKA DOESN’T FREEZE is her first novel. I had the good fortune to hear Giarratano speak last year. She talked about the book being cathartic for her. She regarded it as an exercise to purge herself of bottled up emotions. She never expected a publisher to accept it.
VODKA DOESN’T FREEZE isn’t an easy book. It is a very dark subject Giarratano writes about. A subject that is difficult to explore. However, the reader who can make it through is rewarded. It offers some insights in ways perhaps not expected by the author or the reader. Yes, it does demonstrate how different people deal with being sexually abused, but what I found was that perhaps inadvertently the author has shown something of the emotional toll taken on professionals who deal with sex offenders in their working life.
VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE is a nomination for the 2008 Ned Kelly Awards for Best First Fiction and a well deserved one.