Book Review: Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano

it took me until the end of the book to realize why it’s called voodoo doll, and now I feel a bit sick..

Giarratano is a clinical psychologist and her second novel delves deep into sadism and victim hood. It’s the story of Jill, a damaged cop whose carefully controlled life is thrown out of orbit when she’s assigned a new precinct and a new partner, the enigmatic and clever Gabriel who has a rough past of his own. its the story of Joss and the life he made with his family after a reckless adolescence and the horrors or war and of Cutter, a boy forced into a life of depravity who threatens to take everything from Joss and from anyone else who gets in his way.

The story is brutal and unflinching in its atrocities. Giarratano has truly seen the full gamut of what humans can do to each other and doesn’t hold back from describing torture, sexual sadism, self mutilation and assault. It’s a book that turned my stomach on some pages, but at the same time, it seems an honest recounting. This is what the police deal with, what veterans and doctors and victims and psychologists must deal with on a daily basis.

The book does go over and over Jill’s kidnapping, but in a way that makes you feel sorry for her-you can easily imagine that those events run through her head constantly. You can empathise with these characters, despite their flaws. You understand why Joss drinks. Why Jill runs. Everyone becomes real, even the desperate old school mate in the bar who speaks with a voice that can be found in every seedy bar around Australia at closing time. It’s a hard read, but there is compassion there.

Giarratano had me in the edge of my seat (well, pillow) for most of this book, but I felt like the ending was a bit rushed. Why set the house on fire and then go upstairs to kill people rather than the other way around? Why would Cutter go to the house in Mosman when. It was so obvious the cops would be there? It’s as if Giarratano knew the book was at risk of carrying on forever, but losing all momentum if she didn’t end right there. Still, if you can handle the violent imagery (Warning: there are LOTS of childhood trauma/assault/rape triggers, so read in a safe place if you’re at risk) and you want an interesting read (the attention to detail in the psychology is awesome, not so much with regard to the police work) then give this a go. I think I have her debut, Vodka Doesn’t Freeze somewhere too, but I can’t remember if I’ve read it.

Apologies for any typos- I’m on my tablet at 1.40am with no contact lenses in so cut me some slack and send me new books!

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