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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mystery Book Reading : Blood Redemption by Alex Palmer

Alex Palmer's second novel The Tattooed Man is about to be released in February and to prepare myself I grabbed a copy of her debut novel, Blood Redemption. Blood Redemption was published back in 2002 and won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel, the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Literature and was the joint winner of the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Crime Novel by a woman. All plaudits, awards, what have you are definitely well justified - this is one very strong crime novel.

It starts with a shooting on the streets of Sydney in which a man lies dead, his wife is critically wounded and their son is traumatised having witnessed it all. Leading the investigation is Detective Inspector Paul Harrigan who is joined at the crime scene by a raw newcomer to the detective ranks, Detective Constable Grace Riordan. Both police officers are given incredibly complex backgrounds which Palmer does a tremendous job incorporating into the story without adversely affecting the pace or rhythm of the story.

This isn't a mystery story, it's a crime novel. That is to say, we know the identity of the killer, Lucy Hurst a homeless young woman who has been brainwashed into taking such drastic action. It's an act that will torment her for the remainder of the book.

"You've seen me when I'm wasted and the only thing I want to feel is nothing. When the only thing that keeps me going is the blood pumping through my veins because I can't fucking stop it. Sometimes I want that blood to run down the nearest drain and take me with it." pg 25

This is as much an examination of Lucy and the past she has had to endure that has led her to this point. Hers is a terrible background, a story of horrible abuse that makes you shudder at the injustice she has suffered. You can feel sympathy for a killer, Alex Palmer proves it.

Alex Palmer paints a tragic story populated with rich characters who demand to be explored further. Paul Harrigan is single father to a very clever teenage boy with cerebral palsy, Grace is marked with a deep scar across her throat, the work of a former lover.

It's been 6 years since this book was written and now we're on the verge of being able to read the sequel. The astonishing thing is: there has been no fanfare for the upcoming release of The Tattooed Man (pub: HarperCollins). That may have to do with the fact that it's been such a long time between drinks, but fair warning to all, if the new one is half as good as Blood Redemption you're in for another cracking read. Go out and get Blood Redemption and enjoy a compelling thriller.

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