VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE - Leah Giarratano

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Nobody could possibly call reading VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE a pleasure - it's an absolutely heartbreaking and very discomforting book. The author is a trauma psychologist who works with victims, and victims are very much the focus of VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE.

A young girl, victim of sexual abuse kills herself.  Her psychologist Mercy treats patients who have suffered trauma, but Mercy seems to be very close to breaking in her own right.  A middle-aged man is beaten to death in his hiding spot in the scrub, overlooking a children's pool.  This is not a victim for whom anybody feels much compassion - a paedophile who, it turns out, has connections to a major paedophile ring.  The main investigator on the case, Sargeant Jill Jackson daily fights her own demons, the legacy of being kidnapped and repeatedly raped by paeodophiles as a young girl, she manages her ongoing trauma via a series of her own obsessions - exercise, control of her environment, 100% concentration.  Soon Jill, and her partner Scotty, have more murders to solve - but the victims are all paeodophiles and really - does anybody care?  As the investigation continues, a ring of paedophiles, many of them successful businessmen, leaders and the privileged in society, is revealed and Jill's own past is brought more and more into the present.

There is absolutely no doubt that the central theme of this book is the damage that is done by sexual abuse.  The author has provided a dense, complex concentration on human damage and the ways that various victims try to cope with their own lives - VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE is a harrowing book because of it.  All of the central characters of this book have been damaged, hurt, are struggling to cope with their pasts, the methods that they choose to cope starkly drawn and discomfortingly believable.   There are some parts of this book that many readers will find distressing, the grooming of young children, the kidnap of a young boy.... 

This harrowing and detailed concentration on the victim is what could make VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE potentially difficult for the average reader.  The damage and suffering of the victims is undoubted, the experience of the psychologist and other support personnel who work to help these people must be appalling, but the concentration on the abuse itself made the plot of the murder disappear and VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE became less of a crime fiction book and more an analysis of the affects of crime on a victim.  Sometimes the shape shifting of expectation in a category - such as crime fiction - is a good thing, it can refresh, provide the reader with a different viewpoint, a different consideration, challenge the readers expectations and drag you out of your comfort zone to consider the unconsidered.  VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE is perhaps too heavy handed, too harrowing, too hard, too peopled with damage and suffering, too distressing for many readers, which would be a pity as the message is obviously important.  There is a second book in the works, and I'll be reading that one as well when it comes out, as there is something being said by this author.

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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.

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