VOODOO DOLL is the second book featuring Jill Jackson - the first, VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE is a worthy nominee on the Best First Crime Fiction novel list for 2008. VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE explored - very graphically - the impact of child abuse, VOODOO DOLL takes us into the violent world of the psychopath.
Joss is a Veteran of the Australian Armed Forces - he was a bit of a handful as a boy - got into a fair bit of trouble. He's since done some harrowing tours of duty - including one that haunts him still in Rwanda, he saw a lot of things that have left him shattered and emotionally distraught. But nothing affects him like the night he is a guest at a party in a house that is invaded by armed thugs - one in an increasingly escalating round of violent and horrifying home invasions. Joss is one step ahead of the police though because he recognised one of the invaders. The problem is that one of the invaders recognised Joss.
Jill Jackson has been promoted and transferred from the Maroubra Station - out to the task force working on the home invasion case. She's coping really well, although she's annoyed and disappointed that she won't be working with Scotty anymore, and she's a bit scared by the new situation and new colleagues. Jill is a lot stronger than she was in the first book, despite being scared and a bit stressed out by the change in circumstances - she's coping. With her new partner - Federal Policeman Gabriel Delahunt, also an outsider, they are immediately thrown into the task of finding this gang of home invaders.
There's such a lot to like about VOODOO DOLL it's hard to know where to start. So - the obvious - Jill Jackson was very damaged, very fragile in the first book. She's still damaged but she's not as fragile, she's moving on with her life in this one. This improvement is not overdone or wrongly pitched, there's a demonstrable understanding of the emotional state of a woman like Jill that shines through in this author's writing. It's not surprising there's the understanding but the author has written that understanding with a pitch perfect touch, never overstating the improvement, never underplaying Jill's emotional state. There are also some interesting new characters - Joss is fascinating, despite everything he has been through in his life up until now, the threat to his wife and daughter causes a reaction which could have been expected or is unexpected, depending upon how you'd think it is normal to react in a situation like that. Regardless of whether you understand, or agree with his reaction - you have to give the man points for determination. And guts. And the villain of the piece - Henry. In so many ways he's a victim in his own right, and the difference between he and Joss is used in a clever way, in a way that really highlights how triggers set off a different pattern of behaviour in everyone - but a pattern that can dictate how your life will go from here.
Dr Leah Giarratano is a clinical psychologist. An expert in psychological trauma, sex offences and psychopathology, she has had many years' experience working with victims and psychopaths. She has worked in psychiatric hospitals, with the Australian Defence Force, and in corrective services. She also writes a novel which is obviously heavily influenced by her own knowledge, experience and by a real truth in the story that she tells. But she tells it as a story, she is developing a real gift in writing a story that is shocking, that is confronting but is also enlightening and just that bit uplifting.