Book Review: Lost, Michael Robotham

Lost is the second book in the Joe O’Loughlin series. Written from the first person perspective of Vincent Ruiz, the Detective Inspector determined to find Joe guilty in Suspect, it commences with Ruiz clinging to a yellow buoy in the middle of the Thames, dazed, confused and shot.

Admitted to hospital and placed in a coma, when Ruiz awakes, he has no memory of the events leading up to his immersion in the river or his wounds, only that it’s somehow connected to a previous case of an abducted girl, a Russian criminal, a child molester and a grieving mother.

With the help of his friend, psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin and a young policewoman, Ruiz has to not only piece together aspects of the old case, but recover his memories and discover who it is that’s not only trying to frame him for crimes he didn’t commit, but sabotage his career as well.

At first I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this book as much as I have the others in the Joe O’Loughlin series. For a start, I found it hard to get used to Ruiz as the first person point of view. His tone grated and I was still smarting from his attitude in Suspect (yes, I take these characters very seriously). However, as the novel went on, I became immersed in this psychological jigsaw, how the characters both divulged and withheld information, enabling or preventing Ruiz from discovering the information he so desperately needs. I also really enjoyed seeing Joe through Ruiz’s eyes, witnessing his admiration and the almost begrudging warmth he feels for a man he once tried to arrest. Gaining insight into Ruiz’s past as well as the relationship he has with his mother and children, why his marriages have failed and how he perceives himself were simultaneously poignant and downright tragic.

Once more, the prose is sharp, evocative and moving. Dialogue crackles and is often laugh out loud funny and wise-arse. Ruiz’s repartee is “take-no-prisoners” and yet, just as he can out-smart-alec the best of them, he’s also capable of deep compassion. Likewise, in seeing Joe from another perspective, we also come to learn how his insights really do nurture and support those he offers them to and the type of reliable and ethical friend he can be.

It was also nice to see Julianne through another man’s eyes as well as Charlie and Emma. But it’s in his fight for justice and peace of mind that Ruiz shines. Brave and loyal to a fault, there’s no risk he won’t take and literally no stone he’ll leave unturned.

As you would expect from the title, the notion of being “lost’ is a theme of the novel – from losing one’s memory, to a beloved, to one’s place in the world – as a part of a family, position in society or career. The converse of lost is “found” and it’s in the “finding” – the whys and wherefores of what is a physical, psychological and mental process – that the book draws its narrative trajectory, meaning and, ultimately, strength.

Terrific, this is a fast-paced book that gives a new and fuller picture of O’Loughlin’s world from a beloved character’s point of view.

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Book Review: Suspect, Michael Robotham

Having read Michael Robotham’s Joe ‘O’Loughlin books our of order (I literally read Say You’re Sorry, the latest, first – and loved it – see earlier review), I found I didn’t enjoy this first in the series as much as I feel I probably should.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a tautly written, gripping thriller that takes you on a roller-coaster ride as we’re introduced to the recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin. Dealing with this advancing neurological disease and the fact it will steal precious time with his beloved family is bad enough, but when Joe discovers that a woman who once accused him of sexual assault has been murdered, and all the clues as to her killer lead to him, time works against him in different ways.

Convinced the killer is one of his patients, no-one will listen to Joe and, as the body count increases, even those who know and love him start to regard him differently, particularly when Joe is caught in the biggest lie a married man can tell.

Not only do we meet Joe’s wife, Julieanne, and young, adorable daughter Charlie, this is also the book that introduces Vincent Ruiz – hardbitten detective who would be quite at home in a Raymond Chandler noir as he is between the pages of this book.

This is a real cat and mouse book – one where the roles sometimes change. While I can acknowledge the writing is superlative and the plotting excellent, I think it’s also testimony to Robotham (and possibly unfair of me) that the main reason I didn’t like the story as much is because, to me, Joe acted in a manner I considered out of character and which didn’t ring true. If I’d read the books in order, however, I presumably wouldn’t feel that way because I wouldn’t “know” Joe or be as invested in him as I’ve become. To me, this intelligent, deeply thinking man (always thinking, as Ruiz observes in a later book, which I’ve just finished and will shortly review as well), behaves in a way that jars – whether it’s how he responds to his diagnosis or the fact he continues to withhold information from the police, I’m not entirely sure. I found this enormously frustrating and even if I didn’t “know” Joe, I would have thought someone with his perceptive qualities and understanding of humans, should know not to keep the sort of information he does hidden as it will only cast more suspicion in him – which it does with devastating results.

Likewise, Ruiz is such an arse. Hostile from the outset, he really is incredibly unlovable and difficult to reconcile with the person he later becomes. I didn’t struggle with him as much as Joe, however, and enjoyed discovering the early stages of their relationship which, in many ways, functions as bromance – boy meets boy, boy hates boy, boy loves boy.

These are very picky complaints and, as I’ve noted, only arise because I read the books front to back (so to speak). Overall, it’s such a tremendous read and again, kept me awake far too late and is, I suspect (pun intentded) responsible for the shadows under my eyes.

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Book Review: Bleed For Me, Michael Robotham

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.

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Book Review: Shatter, Michael Robotham


Once again, Michael Robotham has defined what’s meant by the often loosely applied term “page-turner.” I literally could not put this book down – I was turning the pages and burning the midnight oil because I simply had to know what happened next.

Written in stark, but laden prose that beautifully captures a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships, Shatter is another in the Joseph O’Loughlin series and a triumph of the genre.

Commencing with Professor Joe being unwillingly taken from university by police to where a naked woman with the word “slut” scrawled across her torso, talking on a mobile phone, is about to jump off a bridge, our poignant, Parkinson-suffering psychologist is unable to save her. Finding the situation plays upon him, when the woman’s daughter discovers where Joe lives and implores his help, insisting her mother didn’t take her own life, Joe believes her but, just because he’s convinced this is a murder case doesn’t mean any of those with the power to investigate it do as well.

Finding himself in the unenviable situation of being drawn into the life of a young woman he wants to help and the personal conflict it creates, Joe is caught up in a terrifying and sadistic revenge that, as the body count and danger grows, threatens to tear apart not just the lives of those connected to the killer, but his own family’s as well.

Segueing between the killer’s point of view and that of Joe’s, this is a chilling narrative that also manages to portray the brutal realities of those who witness and deal with dysfunction and violence every day and the inevitable toll this takes on the self and family. The dialogue is masterful, the scenes laden with suspense and, just when you think you cannot take it anymore, humour is thrown in as well, usually in the form of his friend, ex-cop, Ruiz. The way Robotham constructs his young characters is both realistic and heart-warming.

For those who love crime and well-written thrillers, with logical, exciting plots, terrifically crafted characters and dialogue with veracity, you cannot go past Robotham.

I am already two-thirds of the way through another of his books and am utterly in awe of this man’s talent.

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Book Review: Say You’re Sorry, Michael Robotham

Fortunate enough to get a hold of an ARC of this novel, I couldn’t wait to read it. I’d never read a Robotham book before, but I’d always intended to based on the fabulous reviews and recommendations from others. I was not disappointed. I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet Michael, as we were on the same table at the Gold Coast Literatti a few years back, where we enjoyed the company of locals who love books at three different tables. I remember how gracious Michael was and what a fun dining companion and how much we enjoyed chatting to the other writers and the gorgeous organiser, Maryanne Hyde, when the event was finished.

All this aside, I’m really annoyed myself that I waited so long to read one of his books as Say You’re Sorry gripped me from page one to its climactic finish, with brilliant characterisations, dialogue that simply zinged, and a plot that had me turning the pages breathlessly.

Written from alternating points of view, SYS follows the gruesome murder of a couple in a remote house who are, in the novel’s early stages, found brutally beaten and burnt to death. When the body of a young girl is also found, frozen, in a nearby lake, connections start to become apparent. Brought in to help is psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, a character who features in other Robotham books. Clever, compassionate and with an uncanny knack of reading people and situations, he finds himself both perplexed and fascinated by this case and the reluctance of some of his peers to accept alternate scenarios and motives.

Alongside this narrative is that of a young girl. While as a reader you’re aware she’s been kidnapped or trapped, it’s the poignancy of her memories and how she reflects upon the situation she finds herself in, her vacillation between hope, regret and despair that is beautifully and heart-wrenchingly crafted. As the novel progresses, these separate narrative strands and points of view start to merge and it’s when this occurs that I dare you to be able to put the book down – I could not.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear of revealing something that would spoil the reading experience as it’s one so worth taking. In fact, after finishing this taut and terrific thriller, I downloaded Robotham’s other books and am looking forward to reading them very soon. If you enjoy good psychological thrillers, tight, masterfully woven crime with believable characters and plots that have you second-guessing, then this is the book for you. Robotham is up there with the very best.

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