Thursday, March 16, 2006

Blood Memory, by Greg Iles

By Christina VanGinkel

Set in New Orleans and the town of Natchez, Mississippi, Blood Memory by Greg Iles, tells a story full of ongoing events and past memories better left forgotten, at least to some of the players in the book. Trying to make sense of it all is Cat Ferry, a forensic expert who specializes in teeth marks and other just as horrendous clues. She is fighting everything from her own addictions to alcohol, married men, and psychotic illnesses, to figuring out who a serial killer is that is murdering men all over town. Toss into the mix the decade's old murder of her very own father, and other unspeakable crimes from the past and you have a book that is going to defiantly keep you up late reading.

The story starts when another murder occurs, and Cat suddenly finds herself experiencing panic attacks to the point that she is suspended from her job with the FBI. Part of the panic seems to stem from the murders themselves, but she is also experiencing some very personal difficulties, and it seems like no matter which way she turns, her life and her job just continue to fall further apart. Suddenly deciding to be sober when alcohol has ruled her life for longer than she can remember might be playing a part in her panic, but then again, it might just be another excuse.

In a full-blown panic, and not having had a drink in days, she runs home to the one place she hates most, Malmaison, the island that she grew up. It is where her grandfather is ruler of all that he sees, and all of those around him, and has been for decades as both a wealthy doctor and landowner. She is not running to him though, but is seeking comfort from one of her dearest friends, the one person whom she always could turn too, even when life seemed to be handing out the worst, Pearlie. Old and set in her ways, she nonetheless is there with waiting open arms.

Pearlie is still living in the house next to the big house, where she has lived for seemingly ever as a faithful servant of Cat's grandfather, and where Cat spent much of her childhood. She is not even all that surprised when Cat suddenly shows up in her old bedroom, having snuck in during the night. What none of them are prepared for though, is when Cat realizes that there are bloody footprints in the room she called her own from years ago, maybe even from when she was but a small child herself, from the night her father was murdered.

The story twists and turns, going over the current events taking place in New Orleans, with a serial killer that just cannot seem to be identified, literally leaving the FBI clues that lead nowhere, then back to Natchez and Malmaison. Worse yet is when the clues seem to keep leading back to Cat herself, if only in her own mind, and she is not sure what to make of it. Clues such as a doctor from her past that she recognizes, but not with the name, she knew him as, a neighbor who she does remember, but living in a house that she expected to be housing somebody else, and an Aunt who is falling apart much the same as Cat is herself, and whispers of things from the past even worse than murder. All of this is happening in this book, and much more.

Before getting this book in my Christmas stocking this past December from my oldest son, I had only read one previous book by Greg Iles, the Quiet Game, and I enjoyed that title almost as much as I did this one. A somewhat large paperback, over 760 pages long, it is the type of story, which keeps you wanting to read the next page, long after you know you should turn off the lights and go to sleep. And just when you think you have the story all figured out, and you are sure you know who is the killer, and who is the bigger villain, even worse than the murderer, you realize your assumptions could be wrong and you just have to read a bit further. I definitely recommend this book for those who love a thrilling story with plenty of twists, turns, and clues just begging to be deciphered.

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