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Blood Memory

Reviewed: July 3, 2006
By: Greg Iles
Publisher: Pocket Books
767 pages, $13.95

Remember when hardcover books cost $6 and paperbacks cost 50 cents? Now that the price of the average mass market edition has topped $10, it appears that some publishers have decided to make it look like we're getting more for our money.

Simon & Schuster's Pocket Star line in one of those experimenting with with the paperback format, with some of its latest releases appearing in a format that sits midway between the mass market  pocket book and the larger, more durable trade paperback.

This new product is taller and seems to have either slightly larger print or wider leading between the lines. Some trade news articles that I have read indicate that this is to compensate for the failing eyesight of baby boomers who would not have balked at the 8 point type in 11 by 16 cm 45 cent pocket books 40 years ago.

I picked this one up partly to see if, as had been trumpeted on the covers of some of these next generation paperbacks, they really were designed for greater reading comfort. I didn't notice any particular difference, except that the book felt strange in my hand. But enough about the package. How was the book?

  I've read one Greg Iles novel before, an e-book as it happened, so this one was different in several ways. The Footprints of God was a high tech thriller with a male narrator. Blood Memory follows in the gory footsteps of writers such as Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, with just a touch of CSI and perhaps a bit of Thomas Harris to spice it up.

Meet Catherine Ferry, "Cat" to her friends and associates. Cat's a forensic ondontologist "an expert on human teeth and the damage they can do." Mostly, she just tells people she's a dentist. It's simpler that way in "post-CSI America", so she tells us.

Yes, we're in Cat's slightly fuzzy head, at one with her emotions (she's about to break up with her married lover), her cravings (Cat's been an alcoholic for years and takes a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to combat a small army of problems), and her present tense (emphasis on TENSE) experience of the events around her as her personal and professional lives crack and fall apart.

Cat used to be very good at her job, but lately she's been collapsing, having panic attacks at crime scenes, fainting, and generally behaving in a manner which inspires very little confidence in the members of the FBI task force with which she is consulting.

The killer they are seeking leaves bite marks. Four men between the ages of 42 and 69 have been murdered and marked within the last months. It's an unusual case. Serial killers usually go for women, after all, and younger women at that.

It's unusual in other ways too, When they find a suspect he's a spooky fellow who could give Dr. Lector lessons in being cool, and who seems to have intimate knowledge of Cat, though she does not recall much about him.

Dr. Malik specializes in counselling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and this turns out to be a very important factor in both of the major plot threads in this novel.

The murders, and their eventual solution, are only part of this story, you see. Cat has psychological and emotional issues which go back to her early childhood and the day her father was murdered almost in front of her.

When it appears that someone has Cat marked for execution, she naturally assumes that there is a connection to her professional life, especially when it turns out that her aunt was one of the spooky Dr. Malik's patients.

There are many puzzles to be solved in this story, and Cat has a great deal of trouble finding all the pieces. Some of them are locked in memories that she has never properly processed. Others have been drowned in booze and mixed up in the memories of bad affairs. Our acquaintance with Cat does not begin with us meeting someone we can like or trust, but she grows on us and, as the story progresses, she grows up, which is something she’s been avoiding on an emotional level for most of her adult life.

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