Leah Giarratano's Vodka Doesn't Freeze was the 34th crime fiction novel I read this year.
Sydney, New South Wales. David Carter, a paedophile is battered to death while sneaking views and taking photos of children at a local swimming and paddling pool.
Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson suffered abuse as a child twenty years earlier and still exhibits symptoms such as a punishing food and exercise regime, obsessive cleaning, and a fear of men. Her relationship with her partner Scott Hutchinson is therefore purely platonic, because although there is a mutual attraction Jill's past traumas are too vivid for her to explore this attraction further.
She is also not popular with many of her sexist colleagues having sent down a drug dealing biker gang one of whose member's brother is a fellow officer.
Jill and her partner Scotty investigate the Carter murder, and when several other men known to the police as sex offenders are also brutally murdered it seems a serial killer is at large.
It emerges that the murdered men were treated by the same psychotherapist Dr Mercy Merris, a woman who seems to be loosing control under the extreme stress of her difficult job.
The men may all be linked in a club for paedophiles run by the wealthy Alejandro Sebastian, with the assistance of a brutal thug Jamaal Mahmoud.
'As you know,' she continued, we have evidence that all of the deceased were involved in paedophilia, and were possibly part of an organised network of pederasts.'
Vodka Doesn't Freeze was the debut novel of Dr Leah Giarratano, who is a psychologist, and an expert in psychological trauma, sex offences, and psychopathology.
She has used her professional knowledge and experience to produce a book that definitely does not pull any punches. Her concern to inform us about child abuse, a subject she obviously cares very deeply about, means that the readers are subjected to a series of harrowing encounters with some very horrible characters.
The moral question is raised whether, or not, the killer should be found, or should he, or she, be allowed to go on eliminating the paedophiles.
I must admit I found this a difficult book to read, and I wished I believed that longer prison sentences with more psychological treatment and rehabilitation was the answer to these people's problems. Should they be locked up forever.......?
I did change my mind however about the book which when I started to read I thought was simply a sensationalist book about disgusting characters. Once I had got into the story I was still disgusted by the behaviour of the villains, but I understood that the author was trying to warn and inform the readers about a terrible world that we know exists, but is so alien to most normal people that we don't want to even think about it.
Jill Jackson despite her fitness and all her martial arts skills still feels vulnerable, something most men never feel until they break a leg. It is sometimes good to be taken out of your comfort zone, and Leah Giarratano certainly achieved that.
While I can't say I "enjoyed" reading Vodka Doesn't Freeze, it was thought provoking and it did leave me feeling that if asked to collect my granddaughter from the cinema, or a friend's house, I would never ever be late.