SHATTER - Michael Robotham
SHATTER is the much anticipated 4th book in an ongoing series by this author. All of these books are strong psychological thrillers, with good plots peopled with some believable characters. Each book switches the central protagonist around an expanding character group - sometimes with the others playing bit parts. In SHATTER Clinical Psychologist and Parkinson's sufferer Joe O'Loughlin returns to take the focus, with DI Ruiz taking a supporting (and supportive) role.
As the book gets started Joe is working part-time as a lecturer - the Parkinson's is starting to affect how he can lead his life and it's an ever-present "character" in everything he does. When called to the bridge he's profoundly startled by the sight of a naked woman perched on the edge of a bridge and he's profoundly distressed when he can't stop her from jumping. Everyone is convinced this act - for all it's bizarre characteristics - has been a suicide, but when her daughter - Darcy - gets in touch with Joe she is able to convince him that not only would her mother not suicide, she wouldn't do it in that manner. And there's the question of the mobile phone - who was she talking so frantically to.
Joe's therefore not that surprised when yet another naked woman is found dead in bizarre circumstances, but it takes that death to finally convince DI Veronica Cray that there's something very very weird going on.
One of the great strengths of Robotham's writing is that he can take the reader along the ride of what is a pretty intricate plot - the weird deaths, a strange lurking presence on the end of a telephone call, Joe and his Parkinson's, amongst other things whilst not losing sight of the characters that are central to these plots. The victims have a personality, the killer is allowed to be more than just an "evil presence", Joe's personal life, his own daughters, and his wife Julianne intertwine with his investigation and retired Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz.
Even at points when the reader could get cocky and think that the obvious is about to happen, there's a twist - just a little twist but enough to keep you reading and wondering. Robotham obviously has great skill as a story-teller. The book takes a very disconcerting subject matter, an unusual and quite sobering twist on the standard murder scenario and it makes it seem not only feasible but frighteningly so. But at the same time he can generate a feeling of sympathy for so many of the players in this story that could have / maybe should have / had they done something - then none of this needed to happen - and that applies not just to the victims and the perpetrator.
A naked woman in red high-heeled shoes is perched on the edge of Clifton Suspension Bridge with her back pressed to the safety fence, weeping into a mobile phone. Clinical psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin is only feet away, desperately trying to talk her down. She whispers, ‘you don’t understand,’ and jumps.
Later, Joe has a visitor - the woman’s teenage daughter, a runaway from boarding school. She refuses to believe that her mother would have jumped off the bridge - not only would she not commit suicide, she is terrified of heights.
Joe wants to believe her, but what would drive a woman to such a desperate act? Whose voice? What evil?