Sgt. Jill Jackson of the Sydney Police is assigned to investigate the murder of a man found in some brush on a cliff overlooking a pool frequented by children. It is instantly apparent to the Police that he was a paedophile.
There is no regret in the police that he has been killed. Some officers would prefer not to aggressively investigate a murder of a man they despise.
On her return home Jackson, thinking of the investigation, suffers a panic attack as she remembers being kidnapped and brutalized as a child by her captors. When she comes home she obsessively checks her house to be sure there are no intruders present.
Clinical psychologist, Mercy Merris, is unraveling. She has spent too much time counseling the victims of paedophiles. The private clinic where she works has unsuccessfully attempted to get her to restrict her practice
Jackson knows and admires Merris who had treated her. She worries about what is happening to the psychologist.
In her police unit Scott Hutchison, a big bluff outgoing man is Jackson’s partner very supportive of her. Her nemesis is Elvis Calabrese a big, overweight offensive man. Each is almost a caricature. I do not make light of the challenges of women in police services but there is no subtlety to these men.
In a review of outstanding cases Jackson notes a pair of murders of men in the Sydney area. It does not take long to determine someone is killing paedophiles.
Much of the book focuses around paedophiles and their connections with each other. Reading about them is difficult, often repellent. In reading the book I wondered whether they could be anything but evil in fiction. Could a writer show any aspect of their lives in a positive way?
I admire Giarrantano for writing about a mystery involving paedophiles. I doubt there is a harder subject.
With the investigation turning into the hunt for a serial killer Jackson is conflicted about diligently pursuing the killer. Should the police go after a vigilante eliminating men who hurt children?
At the heart of the book for me was the question whether a paedophile can be a victim if he is murdered? Does the predator become victim when murdered?
I thought of Michael Connelly’s character, Harry Bosch. For 20 years he has lived by the motto that everyone matters or no one matters.
Michael Connelly, on his website, has an interview from 2002 between himself and his character, Bosch. In that interview Bosch explains his philosophy:
HB: Look, I’ve always said that everybody counts or nobody
counts. I choose the former over the latter. Everybody counts.
That goes just as much for the boy on the hill as it does for every
person that was in the World Trade Center or in the Pentagon or
on those planes. I’ve never had a problem keeping my eyes on
the prize. Not this case or any of the others before it.
Bosch will not value one person’s life over that of another person. He is widely admired for his commitment to all victims. By this creed the murder of a paedophile is the same as the murder of any other person.
If we decide victims can only be good people we play God on whose lives and deaths have worth.
To her credit Jackson seeks out the killer. She is a true officer enforcing the law rather than making judgments on whose deaths deserve her efforts to solve their murders.
Publishers are squeamish about the issue of murdered paedophiles as victims of crime. On the back cover they would far rather talk about Jackson seeking out living paedophiles participating in a ring than her responsibilities as a homicide detective to find a murderer of paedophiles.
If you like Hollywood you will enjoy the ending to the book.
I was glad I read the book. It did leave me disturbed and thoughtful. I expect it will be some time before I read another book focused on paedophiles. (Aug. 25/13)
****My connection to this book comes from spending time in Sydney three years ago while my son was on a university exchange to that fine city.
Bill - Thanks for the fine review. You raise an interesting an important question. Does the fact of having committed an awful crime make a person less of a victim if s/he's murdered? Certainly there's a difference in the way people look at such cases, depending on who the victim is. You've got me thinking, for which thanks..ReplyDelete
I bought this book a few years ago after seeing that Bernadette from Reactions to Reading gave it a positive review. I struggled with the story and set it aside to try again later. I agree that it shouldn't matter what someone did in life in order for them to get justice. But this topic and this book is definitely a hard read. I'm not one to shy away from uncomfortable topics (especially after reading Stona Fitch, Senseless). So I will make sure to read it. Sorry to babble. Thanks for the review.ReplyDelete
This sounds very interesting but the subject matter does sound off-putting. Could be difficult to read. I really like the discussion in the post of "everyone counts or nobody counts."ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. All of us are challenged when bad people are murdered. In organized crime situations it is usually the bad killing the bad. I think society has a responsibility to pursue all killers.ReplyDelete
Keishon: Thanks for the comment. I can understand why you stopped reading the book. There were moments when I wondered if I wanted to keep reading. I was glad I kept going and finished the book.ReplyDelete
TracyK: Thanks for commenting. It is difficult subject matter. I hope Harry never loses his commitment to all murder victims.ReplyDelete
Now that I know the topic of this book, which I've wondered about, I don't know about reading it. You're right -- reading about pedophiles is difficult.ReplyDelete
They are so despised that even in prison their lives are endangered from other prisoners. Many, like Jerry Sandusky, have to be in isolation.
And I'd say surely they are victims if they're murdered, and the killer should be found. However, I'd say motive of the killer is crucial here. If the pedophile is murdered by one of his victims or former victims -- that it's very different from him being bumped off for his insurance policy.
But do I want to read about them? No. Or about people who torture and kill children? No, even though I read and liked Jussi Adler-Olsen's A Conspiracy of Faith but hated the killer.
I couldn't stand in Harry Bosch's last case in The Drop, that he caught a long-time pedophile/child murderer. I had to skip scenes in the book, and unfortunately, I still remember some horrible images. I could have lived without that in his book, and just enjoyed the main mystery in it involving a politician.
I hope forensic psychiatrists figure these guys out, including the guy in Cleveland who just hung himself after being sentenced to life in jail for kidnapping, raping and beating three young women for 10 years. What is this? Why are they like that? How can it be prevented/stopped?
I wish they were understood so that this behavior could be seen early and they were isolated somehow and treated.
But I certainly don't want to read about them when I read for enjoyment and distraction.
Kathy D.: Thanks for your comment. I am sure you speak for a lot of readers that reading a book involving paedophiles inevitably means reading about what they do with children and they are not interested in reading such a book. It is a book that a reader will not forget for a long time.ReplyDelete