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Are we all a victim?
on 17 September 2012
I do wish publishers would stop giving the impression that books which were originally released over 10 years ago (in this case 2001 for the UK) are masquerading as new books. Fortunately, I hadn't read this one so I enjoyed the story but feel annoyed that I was caught out by a sleight of hand!
The book is based around a series of mass killings at various schools throughout the US which actually took place. Regrettably, they still do. Make no mistake, this is a crime thriller and does not pretend to reflect on the real-life events. It does, however, spend some time, via the main protagonists, trying to rationalise the reasons for such outrages. Since the answer has not yet been found, mainly due to the lack of first hand perpetrators killing themselves before they are taken into custody, the chances are high that more school killings will occur.
In this novel, the disturbing clue which leads to a tense investigation is just why one of the victims, a teacher, was killed with a single shot to the head when the other victims were killed in a spray of bullets.
Officer Lorraine Conner, yet another police person with a haunted past, leads this investigation, little knowing that she, herself, has become the grand finale. Meantime, FBI profiler Pierce Quincy arrives on the scene to lend his support, a man specializing in child psychology with, guess what, a troubled past.
If one cuts out the author's take on why these events happen, this is well up to Lisa Gardner's high standards of storytelling. She intertwines the horrific event in Conner's earlier life resulting in the killing of her mother, with the manipulation of a young schoolboy by the real killer responsible for the mass killings at three of the schools. When all this is set in a very small town in Oregon, where everyone knows the business of everyone else - or thinks they do, Conner's job becomes increasingly plagued by emotions on all sides.
Even so, the author tells a convincing story. The person behind the killings lies hidden in the community and no amount of investigating seems to bring Conner and Quincy any closer to solving the mystery of the dead teacher. Until, that is, there is a breakthrough with an interesting take on how a .22 bullet can be made to fire from a .38. I didn't know this but then, why would I? But it's an ingenious point.
Despite its age, this book is still well up to today's standards of thriller writing, in fact, it's a far better book than many of the current crop of police action stories. I just wish Headline Publishing (and Amazon) would be more open with the provenance of their books.