Once gain, Michael Robotham has managed to write a nail biting, chilling and considered thriller that explores family dysfunction, race-hate, misguided loyalty and the capacity some adults have to abuse their positions in society and families.
Centering on psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, our Parkinson-suffering psychologist, who’s separated from Julieanne, and doing the parenting juggle and his best to cope with his deterioration and be amiable as his wife finds her dating feet again, crime doesn’t simply brush the O’Loughlin family in this novel, but enters the front door.
When a friend of Joe’s eldest daughter, Charlie, an attractive fourteen year old, Sienna, is found covered in blood and her father, a former policeman, Ray Hegarty, murdered, family secrets are dredged up and the whole notion of the public versus the private person/a explored.
When all evidence points to Sienna’s guilt, only Joe seems able to read between the lines, looks and unspoken language to understand that something sinister is happening, not just within Sienna’s family, but potentially, her and his daughter’s school as well. Combine this with Julieanne’s involvement in a high-profile race trail, child-sex workers and the lengths people will go to in order to keep secrets for personal gain, and Robotham once again creates an explosive story that prevented me from sleeping until I finished the book.
The langue is sparse, tight; the dialogue fires from the page, constructing realistic and tortured characters – especially the villains who make you tremble – for the characters they interact with and who you know are vulnerable to their machinations. This novel also explores the notion of loyalty, the capacity for abuse that some people in positions of power can wield, and the price of blackmail. I particularly enjoy Joe’s insights and the way he treats the body as a text, unpacking meaning in language, actions and interactions. His mind is his greatest weapon, his tongue how he wields it. Such an ethical and morally interesting person, is Joe O’Loughlin, someone who is always questioning not only other people’s motives, but his own as well.
Against this backdrop, Robotham still manages to explore the family dynamics of the O’Loughlins – with deft and gentle strokes, we feel Joe’s loneliness, Julieanne’s regrets and determination not to acknowledge them and the children’s love for both their parents.
This is a powerful and disturbing book that’s a powerful addition to Robotham’s canon.