Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘rape’

ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN by Wendy Walker: Book Review

If you could take a drug that would make you forget a traumatic incident in your life, would you take it? 

Jenny Kramer is a typical teenager, the only daughter in an upper-middle-class family in Connecticut.  Her story begins with a much-anticipated invitation to a party, a party that goes horribly wrong.

Jenny is just beginning to see herself as a desirable girl after years of being the “tomboy” in her group of friends.  She is always a friend but never a girlfriend until the afternoon at school when Doug Hastings asks her to meet him at the party as his date.  When she arrives he is with another girl; mortified and not a little drunk on the vodka shots she downs to cover her embarrassment, she walks into the woods surrounding the house.

There her attacker assaults and rapes her, abandoning her brutalized body and disappearing.  Finally, her cries attract the attention of some other teens who had wandered into the woods from the house party; then it was an emergency call to the police and to her parents.

Charlotte and Tom Kramer appear from the outside to be a perfect couple, but their marriage has many cracks.  There’s Charlotte’s social climbing, Tom’s endless hours at work, and, most important, Charlotte’s affair.  Now the two different points of view they have about Jenny’s rape will cause additional fractures.

The doctors explain that there is a new drug that can repress one’s memory of a particular event.  Tom doesn’t want to have Jenny take this drug; he feels it would be healthier for her to face the rape and possibly to remember something that would help the police catch her assailant.  Charlotte can’t imagine why he feels that way; she wants Jenny to be able to live as if the rape never happened.  Two opposite viewpoints, and Charlotte’s prevails.  But as the book’s title tells us, the mind is a strange thing and forgetting isn’t that easy.

Jenny’s story could have been taken from nearly any American newspaper today.  Her reactions, those of her parents, and the reaction of the novel’s narrator point out how many threads there are to her story.  Regarding the experimental drug, there really isn’t any best way to decide whether or not to use it, and it certainly isn’t possible to look at it without bringing emotions into it.  No one can bring a clean slate into the decision process.  What her parents decide reflects their own lives, past and present.  But must Jenny live with their choice?

Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights to All Is Not Forgotten and is developing the film for Warner Brothers.  Wendy Walker’s novel is a wonderful candidate for a movie.  Its characters are realistic, the story is fast-paced, and the ending is perfect.

You can read more about Wendy Walker at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


JAR CITY by Arnaldur Indridason: Book Review

Iceland in the fall–it’s cold, dark, and rainy. A perfect setting for a “typical Icelandic crime” that turns out to be anything but.

Just a word of explanation at the beginning, taken from “A Note on Icelandic Names” that prefaces Jar City:  “Icelanders always address each other by first names…People are listed by their first names even in the telephone directory.”  So the following names are all first names.

Inspector Erlandur is called to investigate the murder of an elderly man after a neighbor’s young son discovers the body.  The apartment in which the victim is found is on the lower floor in a small apartment building, dark and dank.  It appears that Holberg was killed by a heavy glass ashtray being thrown at his head, not exactly a certain way to kill anyone.  As Erlandur’s assistant, Detective Sigurdur Oli comments, “Isn’t this your typical Icelandic murder?  Squalid, pointless and committed without any attempt to hide it, change the clues or conceal the evidence.”

But there are two strange items in the apartment.  The first is the note left on the dead man’s body:  “I Am Him.”  The second is a faded photo hidden in a drawer; it’s a headstone over a little girl’s grave with the name Audur on it and the dates 1964-1968.

When Erlandur returns home after seeing Holberg’s body, he’s surprised by a visit from his daughter.  Eva Lind is a young woman with many problems, most notably drugs.  Erlandur and Eva Lind’s mother have been divorced for many years, and he’s had very little contact with her or her brother.  She comes to her father for money, which he refuses to give her.  Then she throw out her surprise–she’s pregnant.

Simultaneously, another crime is reported at the other end of the Icelandic social order.  A bride has disappeared on her wedding day, actually from the sumptuous wedding itself, leaving only the cryptic note “He’s a monster.  What have I done?”  The bride’s parents and her new husband profess to know no reason why she should have disappeared the way she did.  But for Erlandur, this needs to take a backseat to the murder of the old man.

A little investigation shows that Holberg was not a model citizen, to put it kindly. Many years ago he was accused of raping a young woman he met at a dance.  When the woman went to the police with her accusation, a hostile police officer refused to investigate, saying she had made the whole thing up.

In the background of the crimes is the question of what it means to be a father. Can one be a father if all he did was contribute his sperm during a rape?  Can one be a father if he sexually assaults his daughter?  Can one be a father if he has little or no contact with his children because of a divorce?  Like other Nordic writers, Indridason writes about social issues that arise in his country, issues of violence and domestic problems that are world-wide.

This book was one of the novels I read for the course I took this fall entitled “A Sense of Place:  Murder Mysteries ‘Round the World.” Jar City was written with an incredible sense of place.  The city of Reykjavik and the country of Iceland are brought fully to life.  It’s a place of great homogeneity, but it’s filled with secrets.  It’s not a novel for the faint of heart, but it is so beautifully written that it’s worth reading past the violence to delve into the culture of a country that is unfamiliar to many of us.

You can read more about Arnaldur Indridason at various web sites.

THE CHICAGO WAY by Michael Harvey: Book Review

The Chicago Way seems to be a tough, corrupt way if Michael Harvey’s series opener is any indication.

Michael Kelly, a former Chicago detective who left the force after cocaine was planted in his car, is now a private investigator. His former partner, John Gibbons, approaches him in an attempt to get Kelly to help him find out the truth about a nine-year-old case in which a woman was brutally raped and stabbed.  The day after the attack, when Gibbons went to the hospital to interview the woman, she’s gone, and so is any indication that the attack took place.  Instead, he’s given a medal, a raise, and a promotion, and told to forget that anything had happened the night before.

Now retired, Gibbons’ conscience is bothering him and he wants to find out the truth of the rape.   All this time Gibbons had thought the victim had been killed in the attack, but she has just come back “from the dead” in a letter addressed to him, and he wants Kelly to investigate.  Kelly agrees, but the next morning he gets a phone call that his former partner has been found dead at the Navy Pier.  And when Kelly returns home from seeing the body, the rape victim is waiting for him, gun in hand.

The city of Chicago is brought vividly to life in this book, almost another character, with its buildings, highways, eateries, and bars.  It’s definitely a city that can both enthrall you and frighten you, depending on whether you’re a tourist or a resident, living on the Gold Coast or in the slums.

Harvey has a nice style, reminiscent of Robert B. Parker’s early Spenser books, with a fine mix of violence and humor.  It’s hard to combine these two, but Harvey does it.  He also does a wonderful job with the many characters that inhabit the novel; each one is given a separate and distinct voice. And there are a lot of supporting characters–Nicole, the crime tech whom Kelly has known since childhood; Diane, the news anchor who’s covering the Gibbons murder and provides a bit of sexual tension; Elaine, the rape victim who comes to life after nine years; Bennett, the assistant D.A. with an unrequited longing for Nicole; and two cops, Rodriguez and Masters.

The Chicago Way is the first in this series, with two other novels following. I plan to pick them up very soon and read my way back to the Windy City.

You can read more about Michael Harvey at his web site.