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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Review : Shatter by Michael Robotham

Title : Shatter
Author : Michael Robotham
Publisher : Sphere
ISBN : 9781847441782
No Pages : 466
Published Date : April 2008
Sub-Genre : Psychological Thriller

In just three books Michael Robotham has established himself as a master storyteller whose new releases are much anticipated both home and abroad. He consistently crafts impressive thrillers around intriguing scenarios. Shatter continues the trend and brings back the protagonist from The Suspect, Joseph O'Loughlin. O'Loughlin, a psychology professor suffering the early stages of Parkinson's Disease, is a fascinating character both for his ability to understand the minds of others and for the insight he gives into the disease he is battling. But that's nothing compared to the ordeal he's about to undertake.

Everyone saw the naked woman jump from the bridge, so how could it be anything other than suicide? Joseph O'Loughlin isn't so sure the woman wanted to do it. He was closest to her when she stepped into thin air and, just before she took that step she was talking on a mobile phone before looking at Joe and saying "you don't understand". It's not until the woman's 16 year old daughter, Darcy, shows up unannounced on Joe's doorstep that he begins to believe that his misgivings are justified.

Darcy tells Joe that her mother was scared of heights, so why would she choose that way to killer herself? Still haunted by his failure to talk her safely off the bridge he takes Darcy to the police in the hope that they might be able to investigate the case as a murder rather than a suicide.
DI Veronica Cray is a tough, abrasive woman yet she's not unreasonable when it comes to listening to solid argument. However as far as she and the rest of the police are concerned, the death is a suicide and the case has been solved.

All of that changes when a second woman's body is found. Again the woman is naked, again she has died outdoors and this time, there is a mobile phone lying next to her. Joseph O'Loughlin, much to his wife's displeasure, is drawn deeply into the murder investigation.

Yet again I found myself sucked along by Robotham's smooth writing style. It flows effortlessly. Right from the very start there is an immediate mystery surrounding the story. There are too many anomalies surrounding the apparent suicide that opens the book to ignore, but the alternative generates all sorts of questions. Robotham cleverly nurtures these questions and, by gradually allowing us to become aware of the killer and what horrors he is capable of, maximises the feeling of tension and expectation.

The insecurities and psychological weaknesses of the victims play an important role in the drama that unfolds throughout the book. The killer is a craftsman of the most terrifying kind and, as such, appears to have all the answers. This is the type of story that plays on the fact that everyone has weaknesses - everyone - and Robotham manipulates the story with complete dexterity so that, as the reader, you find it all too simple a task to imagine yourself in the place of the victim.

The tone of the story is affected enormously by the fact that it is told from Joe O'Loughlin's first person perspective. Here is a professor of the mind who is fighting the inexorable progression of Parkinson's Disease. He also has to cope with the burden of the knowledge that he failed to stop a young woman from jumping off a bridge. He is a mixture of stoic determination and endearing naievete. He's a guy who believes he hasn't let his disease affect his personality, but there is an underlying tinge of sadness that is unmistakable.

As you may be aware, Michael Robotham has a history of taking minor characters from one book and using them as the protagonist in the next. In Shatter he has introduced another character who would make a perfect lead character. DI Veronica Cray, who is in charge of the police investigation. She's a quirky, exuberant in your face character with a past that begs to be explored. She is summarised on page 60:
Veronica Cray can render someone speechless. She's unavoidable. Immovable. Like a rocky outcrop in a force ten gale.

Every scene in which she appears throughout the book confirms this description.

In The Suspect, Joseph O'Loughlin was a deep-thinking character with a complex edge and a grave health battle ahead of him. Shatter takes that raw outline and fills in the man, his fears, emotions and responsibilities to an even greater extent. The psychological battle waged between O'Loughlin and the killer reaches epic proportions with the stakes promising to be far reaching.
Combine the hard work gone into character development with Robotham's free-flowing writing style, evidence of a natural storyteller at work, and readers will have no trouble becoming fully involved in Shatter. It's a story that plays hard on a wide range of emotions.

Find out more details about Shatter by Michael Robotham.


Kerrie said...

I'm looking forward to reading this Damien.
Michael is going to be guest on oz_mystery_readers in Quiz an Author in September and I'm looking forward to catching up with him at Melbourne Writers' Festival in late August

Kerrie said...

I did end up reading this Damien, loved it.
My review is at