Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Ten-pages-in book review: Blood Memory

By special request for James, who happened to ask the other day if I had any forthcoming 10-pages-in book reviews just about the time I was thinking of writing one.

I come by my love of reading honestly - one of my dominant memories from childhood is of my mother curled up around a good book. I used to read a lot of what she left lying around, which explains why I was reading Stephen King by age 10 (which, in turn, probably explains why I am to this day afraid of the dark. But I digress.) I invoke my mother here because she is still my 'dealer'. She buys paperbacks like other people buy groceries, and every few weeks I come home with a shopping bag full of hand-me-downs, most of which I never get around to reading.

I never have to buy the latest James Patterson or John Grisham or Janet Evanovich or Patricia Cornwell or Richard North Patterson (I could go on, but you get the point) because I know the week it comes out in paperback, Mom will aquire it and send it my way.

All of this by very long way of introducing the fact that it was her who got me reading Greg Iles, and I look forward to his new material via my dealer. I'm about 160 pages in to Blood Memory, which is a little more than 10, but since the entire novel weighs in near 800 pages, I'm following the spirit if not the letter of my own formula.

It's a good read. I'm having a hard time putting it down. The main character, Cat Ferry, is a forensic dental expert with a penchant for self-destructive behaviour. The novel is unfolding as two stories, one a set of serial murders in present-day (but hurricane-free) New Orleans, and the second the mysterious death of her own father 20 years before. Early in the story, Cat stumbles across evidence that makes her question the fact that her father was killed by a burglar, but her pursuit of the present-day serial killer and her myriad personal problems interrupt her quest for the truth.

It sounds a little formulaic when I lay it out like that, but it's a compelling story well told. Cat is the kind of protagonist that a lot of male authors seem to create - smart, sexy, and stormy. She makes some irresponsible choices that make me cringe, but I can still relate to her on the smart and sexy parts at least. (Stop laughing. My book review, my bias.)

At least twice so far, Cat has made mention of Thomas Harris' book Red Dragon, which is interesting because the story reminds me a lot of Silence of the Lambs. (Red Dragon was the prequel to Silence of the Lambs, where the character of Hannibal Lector is introduced. All books I also got from my mother, for what it's worth.) Strong, smart lead takes on creepy psychotic guy. I'm sure if I picked up on it, the allusion was intentional on the part of the author, since I'm not one to catch subtleties.

There's lots of delicious tension in this novel. The past intrudes on the present with an unsettling randomness that seems to be getting less and less random as the story progresses. I've lost my taste for a lot of the FBI/serial killer type novels lately, but this one has enough real character development and actual story behind it to make it compulsively readable.

My only complaint is that my wrist gets sore holding an 800 page paperback in bed, although I am grateful for the well-spaced font as I read blearily late into the night. I've been up past 10 pm twice this week reading it - that's the wee hours of the morning by my standards!

Edited to add: I finished this one over the holidays. I kept finding excuses to hide in a corner and read a few more pages. In the end it was a real page turner, but also very disturbing. I didn't really see anything come of the allusions to Thomas Harris, and the book went in a different direction than I was expecting. It was good, though, and I'll look forward to the next wrist-breaking Greg Iles book when it comes out in paperback.