Random House, 2008
Reviewed by Helen Lloyd
Joss Preston-Jones, his wife Isobel, and their young daughter Charlie are
spending the evening at the home of Isobelís boss when they are caught up
in a vicious home invasion. Terrorised by the machete wielding, balaclava
clad gang, Joss is horrified when he recognises one of them, and even
worse heís certain the moment of recognition was mutual. Joss has his own
reasons for not telling the police of his suspicions, but he knows Henry
Nguyen, nicknamed Cutter, will not rest until he has hunted down Joss and
This is just the most recent in a series of increasingly violent home
invasions in Sydneyís western suburbs. A police taskforce has been set up
to investigate the crimes, and the newly promoted Sergeant Jill Jackson is
transferred to Liverpool to be part of the team. When the attacks escalate
to murder, the pressure is on to try to stop this dangerous psychopath
before he can kill again. Jill finds herself partnered with the enigmatic
Federal Police officer Gabriel Delahunt, as they reinterview previous
victims in the hope of uncovering a clue to the identity of the gang
VOODOO DOLL is told from three different points of view: the police, Joss,
and Cutter. We know who the killer is from the start, so the tension comes
from Jossís very palpable fear; our knowledge of Cutterís growing need for
violence; and not knowing if the police can stop him before he strikes
It is the strong characterisation that really makes VOODOO DOLL stand out.
Giarratano, a clinical psychologist, brings her experience of working with
trauma survivors to her writing.
With the events of the previous book, VODKA DOESNíT FREEZE, now behind
her, we see a more secure, more optimistic Jill in this book; a Jill who
sometimes experiences "spontaneity, joy, hope". Although she still has a
long way to go, she is beginning to let people into her life. One of those
people is her new partner, Gabriel Delahunt.
Delahunt is an intriguing character with his slightly bizarre manner and
unorthodox methods. During interviews, Jill finds his seemingly
disinterested attitude irritating, but soon realises it is merely a cover
for a very keen observer of human behaviour. He manages to get under
Jillís defences and she is shocked to find herself relaxing in his company
after only short acquaintance. It will be interesting to see if this
relationship develops in future books.
Joss is an ex-soldier who is still haunted by the horrors he witnessed as
part of the peace-keeping force in Rwanda. As the story unfolds we find
out more about Jossís childhood connection with Cutter. Cutter is a very
disturbed individual who is largely the result of some terrible lessons he
learnt from his grandfather.
VODKA DOESNíT FREEZE was an exceptional first novel, but VOODOO DOLL
surpasses it. It is best to read the books in order as there are several
mentions in this book of events that occurred in the first.
Aug 2008 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem
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