When does murder begin? Is it when the gun explodes taking away a person’s ability to breathe or is it when a child is forced to experience the pain of sexual abuse while learning that the person they are dependent on has no love for them?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter because to the child experiencing the pain and psychological torture of this abuse, death may be a more desirable option. However, while many of these unfortunate children are too young to understand that they are not guilty or responsible for what is happening to them, others repress memories of this abuse in order to cope with life as they know it.
In Blood Memory, Iles gives the reader a candid look at the adult victims of this abuse clearly showing how their lives were ruined and how their resulting behavior often results in their ultimate destruction or the perpetration of the same crime on their own children.
Iles begins the tale with forensic odontologist Catherine “Cat” DeSalle Ferry being called to the murder scene of another New Orleans murder that includes gunshots to the spine and head of an elderly man. The scene of the crime is identical to several others that have occurred in the New Orleans area with all of them displaying multitudinous bite marks along their torsos. The murders have been dubbed the NOmurs and the detectives are stymied by crime scene’s that leave no clues except for a cryptic message left in the victim’s blood that says, “My Work is Never Done.” It isn’t until victim number five is discovered that law enforcement begins to understand how the murders may be tied together and why these particular men have been targeted.
In a secondary plot Cat who is an heiress to a vast family fortune has attempted to fight her demons without the support of her family. During the ten years that she has lived in New Orleans she has been under the care of various psychologists who have attempted to help her understand what is driving her destructive behavior that includes suicide attempts, alcoholism and a penchant for dating married men. However, no matter what she has tried nothing has helped her to combat the demons that haunt her dreams and have recently begun to affect her investigative skills.
Cat struggles repeatedly to put a face on the demons that interrupt her sleep but the situation takes on a desperate note when she finds herself pregnant by the married detective, Sean Regan, that she is dating. After fainting at two of the murder scenes Cat is removed from the case and finds herself becoming the focus of the investigation. Mortified by this event she returns home to DeSalle Island, just outside of Natchez, Mississippi. Upon arriving home Cat accidentally discovers bloody footprints, from some twenty years earlier, in her bedroom. This causes her to begin having additional flashbacks from that time when she was eight-years-old and witnessed the death of her father. She had been led to believe that he had died at the hands of an intruder but as the story progresses we learn that you cannot believe everything you are told.
Throughout it all Cat learns that she cannot count on Sean even though she needs him more now than ever as she is forced to face the truth of her own childhood sexual abuse. Who did it? Her father? Her grandfather? A stranger? How is this connected to the murders in New Orleans or is it?
A minor additional plot erupts during the chaos of the other plots when a relationship begins to form between Cat and the kind pediatrician, Michael Wells M.D. who knew her in High School. Michael supports Cat throughout all the trauma, her pregnancy, and assists her in her eluding of law enforcement, without demanding a sexual relationship giving Cat the strength to unravel the twisted events of her violent childhood.
The method Iles uses to tie all the plots and cast of characters together is phenomenal. He finishes in a manner that all the loose ends are closed up and while you are surprised by the ending you are completely satisfied by it. In the final lines of the book Iles has Cat speak the following lines to her unborn child as she walks towards Michael, “It’s going to be different for you…Your Mama knows what love is.” This was an important line as it showed that the continuation of the familial abuse had finally ended and that this offspring would be free from the fear of it.
Greg Iles dedicates Blood Memory to those women who suffer from uncontrollable actions that they can’t explain only to suffer from tortuous nightmares and a desire to end the pain. In his acknowledgements he writes: “Accounts of sexual abuse are difficult to deal with, even on the written page. To recount personal experiences is nothing short of heroic. Few crime victims face the battles that those who as adults begin to recall childhood sexual abuse must fight. Far too often family members and the general public refuse to believe their claims, even in the face of corroborative evidence. None of us wants to think about the harrowing crimes that innocent children suffer in their own homes. But we owe everyone who has such memories a fair hearing. Please don’t ignore any child or adult who claims that she — or he — has been sexually abused.”
The book completely captivated me and I can only pray that the message hidden within the book will help to free men and women everywhere from the pain of this insidious crime that is so well hid within families.
[tags]Blood Memory, Greg Iles, Childhood sexual abuse, sexual abuse, DeSalle Island, Natchez, Mississippi, book review, fiction, mystery, thriller, murder, New Orleans, suicide attempts, alcolholism, familial abuse[/tags]