Thursday, 18 August 2011

Book Review: Coming Home by P D Martin

I was prompted to buy this book by a review I read on the great book blog by Elizabeth A. White.  I’d never read anything by P D Martin before, but wasn’t disappointed by Coming Home.

Synopsis: FBI profiler, Sophie Anderson, had thought her brother’s abduction and murder, when she was a young girl, would go unsolved forever. It was that murder which prompted her to join the police and work her way up to being a homicide detective in Australia’s Victoria Police department. But with only one profiler in the State of Victoria here career was blocked, with her eventually leaving Australia for the USA where, due to her dual nationality, she was able to join the FBI.

Calling in favours from old friends in the Police Department, she gets access to the crime scene files and, working along side her old colleague, Lily Murphy, develops a profile of the perpetrator who she helps track down.

The tension builds as the story develops, in part due to a new victim being abducted and in part due to the mounting pressure the protagonist feels to solve her brother’s murder. Sophie’s psychic gifts cause her to have visions of what has happened to these victims, with this further adding to the tension. None of these scenes are particularly graphic, which can be a problem when describing child sexual abuse. Rather, the horror of what has happened, and is continuing to happen, to these children is brought home by focusing on the children’s and the parents’ emotional suffering; including Sophie’s own pain and that of her parents. The horror of these crimes is further emphasised by Sophie and Lily considering the perpetrators’ reasons for abducting, abusing and killing these children, while constructing their profile.
The characters are well-rounded, and believable, as are their motives. P D Martin is very effective in defining the characters through their patterns of speech and mannerisms.  I particularly liked the fact that the protagonist, Sophie, doesn’t accept that she has dealt with her brother’s death in a maladaptive way, while all those around her are aware of this and attempt to bring it to her attention.  This created a realistic sense that most people, including psychologists, struggle to avoid emotional pain even if they know, deep-down, that this isn’t a constructive way to deal with grief.
The only problem I had with the book was Sophie’s psychic ‘gift’.  While this adds extra tension to the story, to a pragmatist like myself this required some suspension of disbelief.  However, this was handled well by P D Martin who explored how Sophie, as a scientist, had herself found it difficult to believe this ‘gift’ was real.
Coming Home is a 5 star must read.

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