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Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano

Vodka Doesn't Freeze (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Leah Giarratano

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Title:Vodka Doesn't Freeze
Authors:Leah Giarratano
Info:Bantam (2008), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Australia, crime fiction, child abuse investigations

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Vodka Doesn't Freeze (Detective Jill Jackson, #1) by Leah Giarratano (2007)



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This is one of those books. One of those mega-marketed, multi-stickered books that I put off reading because I figured it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype and I’d end up disappointed. Again.

Happily I was wrong.

Not that the book is a happy one mind you. The subject matter is skin-crawlingly awful enough to make any sane person consider the merits of the death penalty and/or becoming an armed vigilante. When several men are brutally bashed to death Police discover the men have all been accused of child molestation at some point. The somewhat reluctant investigation into the murders uncovers an entire club of such men who swap photographs, movies and children amongst themselves for their particular sick and sordid pleasures.

The plot is logical and contains no extraneous material which is an increasingly rare thing in this age of books the size (and weight) of house bricks. There are one or two passages, e.g. the incident at the prison, that almost push the story into “I can’t believe all that would happen to one human being” territory but they’re only short and they stretched my credulity rather than breaking it. Irrespective of them the build-up of suspense is perfectly timed and kept me awake long past my bed time. Besides, it’s all set in one of my favourite places on earth and Giarratano has captured the feel of the beachside suburbs of inner Sydney to a tee which makes up for any slight imperfections.

But it’s the characters in this book that are truly memorable. There’s Jill Jackson: an imperfect but very believable heroine who tackles the things she is afraid of despite her fears. Her white eyed companion is also perfectly written. But Giarratano hasn’t stopped with her main character. She’s written totally credibly in the voice of a kidnapped 11-year old boy, a transvestite and the most disturbing bunch of villains you’ll ever meet. For the record it will be Jamaal Mahmoud with his simmering violence and contemptuous hatred for every person he encounters who will inhabit my nightmares. Every passage in which he appears is terrifying. The kind of terrifying where a reader might close her eyes tightly while humming Walking on Sunshine and imagining pictures of puppy dogs before the dark thoughts consume her (I’m not saying I did that, just that some other, fraidy-cat reader might react that way).

For once the marketing was right: this is a killer read. It's my new favourite book of the year so far.
( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
First Line: The razorblade just felt cold and clean as always; her blood warm and soothing.

As a twelve-year-old, Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson of the New South Wales Police was kidnapped and held in a basement for three days. For three endless days, she was abused by men who were never caught and punished for the crime. Now as an adult, she is extremely security conscious and has methods for dealing with recurring nightmares. It is no surprise that she has a deep and abiding hatred of pedophiles and those who procure children for them.

When the body of a man is discovered on a hill overlooking a children's pool, it's immediately clear to Jill that a pedophile has been stopped in his tracks. At first she feels ambivalent about pursuing the man's killer, but when others die-- all known child sex offenders-- Jill knows a serial killer is on the loose.

The further into the investigation she goes, Jill uncovers a long-established club of wealthy pedophiles who mistakenly believe that they are untouchable. As she unearths abusers and victims, she learns that the psychotherapist who's helped her is having her own difficulties-- and Jill's nightmares and panic attacks assume new levels of terror and strength.

If you're not up for the topic of child abuse, pedophiles, and a cast of characters well-populated by pond scum, you might want to give this one a miss. All this didn't deter me, and I found the author's expertise in the subject matter to be very interesting.

The one thing that ultimately did not ice the cake for me was the character of Jill Jackson herself. The woman is filled to the brim with neuroses and doesn't cope with them as well as she'd like to think. Too many things trigger her panic attacks, and she can rapidly turn into a gibbering mass of Jell-O, unable to function. Although catching pedophiles is her stated life's mission, I find it very difficult to believe that she passed all the tests required to become a police officer. (Yes, I know what happened to her when she was a child. It was horrible, and it's wonderful that she's fought back to become a functioning member of society. However... I would not want to be her partner.)

Although Vodka Doesn't Freeze has a lot to recommend it, in the end, I just couldn't buy into the main character. Of course-- your mileage may vary! ( )
  cathyskye | Dec 26, 2010 |
A detective who was kidnapped and abused when she was a little girl investigates a serial killer who is killing off convicted child sex offenders. A twelve-year-old boy is kidnapped. ( )
  TonySandel | Feb 3, 2009 |
A man has his head bashed in while hiding in bushes watching kiddies playing in a beach pool. It turns out he is a known paedophile. Sergeant Jill Jackson and her partner Scott Hutchinson are assigned to the case. Unbeknown to Scott, Jill was a victim of just such a man so she doesn’t really want to look too deeply into the case as she thinks his death is a good thing. As the investigation limps along and it becomes apparent that more sex offenders have been killed she
is forced to face the fact that a serial killer is on the loose and make a decision as to whether or not she should bring the killer to justice. I mean to say, the killer is actually doing a service to the community! She takes the stance that citizens can’t take the law into their own hands – no matter what the provocation – and starts to interview past victims and their families.

Jill finds links, looks for clues and conducts the investigation while dealing with her own mind that appears to be getting lost again. In fact quite a few of the characters seem to have either lost their minds or on the verge of it. The story looks at the police investigation, the victims and the sex offenders – which makes reading it a little uncomfortable. The characters range from a child, a transvestite, through to a despicable and heartless man who was once a victim and now is a predator. The setting range from the streets through middle calls all the way to the top echelons of society. Some of the scene’s that relate how little children are prepared for their fate are heartbreaking, but in the end the whole story was just to busy for me and I got completely put off by the relentless various mental breakdowns.

Writing a psychological thriller on the subject of paedophilia is very confronting, and will probably turn a lot of people off it. The writer is a psychologist who worked extensively with trauma victims – so I guess she would know about the mind and how people react. I just felt that Leah Giarratano was perhaps writing the book as therapy and throwing everything at Jill to purge herself of her own memories. By the time we got to the prison scene – I felt like shouting at the book saying enough already. There was just so much drama being thrown at Jill I couldn't believe she was still functioning. In the end Jill just ended up being a caricature rather than a real person which spoilt the book for me. What I did like though was the way the story brings out the emotional toll that these investigations take on both the victims and the various professionals which have to pick up the pieces after these sexual crimes have been committed. ( )
  sally906 | Nov 17, 2008 |
Author: Leah Giarratano
Publisher: Bantam
Edition released: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-86325-583-7
322 pages
Review 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. ( )
  austcrimefiction | Aug 2, 2007 |
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"When a man is brutally murdered in the dunes overlooking a children's pool, it's clear to Sergeant Jill Jackson that this was no ordinary victim: someone has stopped a dangerous predator in his tracks. Knowing first-hand the impact of such men on their prey, Jill is ambivalent about pursuing the killer, but when more paedophiles die - she is forced to face the fact that a serial killer is on the loose. As the investigation deepens, Jill unearths a long-established paedophile ring - who have thought until now that that they are untouchable. Despite the deaths of some of its members, the group is still operating and until Jill can shut it down, children remain 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."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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