Book Review: Blood Memory – Greg Iles

“Remember is a place from long ago”
-Harry Nilsson
ISBN: 978-0-7434-5415-5
* image taken from here



I came across this novel somewhat by accident.  I had in my hands a book about the Trojan War and thought Blood Memory was by the same author.  Very different genres, sure, but Ken Follet wrote about spies before he did sweeping geneological epics.  Imagine my embarrassment when after the purchase – a few days after, if I’m being honest – I realized the books were written by two different people.

The novel starts with Catherine “Cat” Ferry at a crime scene.  She is an odontologist.  Forensic dentist essentially.  She has a panic attack, and it is explained to us this is not the first time this has happened at similar crime scenes.  The scene in question is that of a serial killer’s.  Someone is shooting older men – regardless of station and taking a bite out of them (which is why Cat has joined the FBI-New Orleans Police Department Task Force.

Cat sets out to discover why the particular sets of crime scenes are leading her to panic when she had seen much worse.  She heads home to Mississippi where things aren’t as they seem.

Iles’ south is different than the south of Grisham’s novels.  There’s a deeper divide of race/wealth, but there isn’t the hokey italicized slang.  Side note: it’s always been a pet peeve with me when words in a different language than english are italicized.  When I read something italicized, my brain emphasises it.  99% of the time, it’s not mean to be.  sure it’s not an English word, but it’s a word in the world of the author’s creation.  I don’t see any need for these to be set apart.

Cat’s family dynamics are strongly patriarchal – like what one would see in the height of the cotton farms in the mid to late 1800s.  It’s explained in perfect, rich detail.  Unlike some books out tehre who have geneologies next to impossible to follow, Iles says it and moves on.  There is a purpose for everything he writes.  Mostly.

Author Lisa Scottoline promised on the front cover, the book “grabs you right from page one and carries you straight through the night.”  It took about 300 pages for me, but carry me through it did.  I found myself hypothesizing  about who had killed Cat’s father 23 years ago, admittedly following some red herrings, but ultimately coming to the correct conclusion.

In Blood Memory, there are two mysteries, and we don’t know until the end just how they intersect, if at all, and therein lies my biggest complaint.  I was sucked into Cat’s family drama – the discover of her past and the sometimes painstakingly slow reveal of repressed memories, but the original crime – the serial killings were sometimes an unwelcome distraction.  And the resolution of that storyline felt rushed to me.  Almost as if Iles said to himself, “Oh yah, the serial killer.”  I was disappointed by the reveal – it didn’t seem like there would be any way for the reader to come to that conclusion themselves.

I am a huge fan of misdirection in the novels I read (my collection of Jeffrey Deaver books is a testament to that) and I was pleased Greg Iles didn’t disappoint in that regard.  Because of that, and more, I will look into more of his books.  I don’t know enough of his collection to know if he writes in the same formula, but if it works for him, why should he change.

Cat is our narrator and is unlike any other I’ve journeyed with so far.  She’s cyclothymic, an alcoholic, highly sexualized (for reasons explained in the book [and yet the book is not explicit]), and pregnant.  Her private discourses are raw, honest and it makes her very much a tragic hero.

Strong female characters are hard to write – lest they appear to be stone cold bitches, but Iles peppers her strength with moments of true insecurity and real desires.  I love Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner; Alias), but even I have to admit she come across as self-righteous, with a “I-did-this-but-God-help-you-if-you-do-it-because-it’s-wrong” attitude (especially in the 4th season).  I didn’t feel that way at all with Cat.  Her strengths had the appropriate measure of weakness, and her weak moments had strength.

In an environment where forensic specialities seem to be the rage: Drs. Hodgins, Saroyan, and Brennan – Bones, CSI teams, etc., Iles’ 2005 novel seems almost ahead of it’s time.  Bones had just started, CSI was waning.  And really, a book revolving around forensic dentistry?  It really could have missed the mark by a long shot.  I had fears of Cat rushing in to save the day because of that one tooth which was missing, and she sort of does, but it’s much more believable, because Iles takes us through the process.

Blood Memory, by Greg Iles is available on Amazon for $11.69CDN.

Next review: Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins


1 Comment

  1. Marvelous! This is very cool! Thanks! 🙂

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