Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Jilliane Hoffman - Pretty Little Things
What could be worse than having your teenage daughter running away from home ? Well, apart from the usual blaming yourself and/or your partner for driving them away and watching your marriage slowly fall apart, how about if you work for the Crimes Against Children unit of the Florida police and know first hand some of the horrors that teenagers are faced with out in the big bad world ? Add to that a sadistic serial killer who seems to be targetting teenage runaways and things couldn't get any worse. Or could they ? As this serial killer seems to be targetting you personally and taunting you, leading you to believe he's got your daughter ... maybe ... but is she alive or dead ? And will you manage to track her down ?
Such is the personal hell endured by Special Agent Bobby Dees, known as Shep by his colleagues, who gave him the nickname The Shepherd because he is so good at rounding up the lost little lambs that are the teenage runaways of Miami. He's so good at his job that he manages to bring them all home - except the one that really matters, his own daughter.
The serial killer is particularly evil and twisted, but, if I'm totally honest, didn't really stand out from a long line of similar serial killers that I've encountered (in books, luckily !) recently. He is very manipulative and cunning, sending paintings of his victims to the press and leaving clues in each one to lead the investigators to the next victim's location. To add a bit more excitement to this warped treasure hunt, he also adds mismatching details - clothes, jewellery, tattoos - of different victims so that the investigators can also identify other runaways who must have either been killed by him in the past or are currently in his "collection" of future victims just waiting to be murdered.
The plotline featuring internet chatroom trolling shows how easy it is for people to take on false identities online, with both paedophiles/killers but also the policemen chasing them pretending to be inoffensive teenagers out for a chat and a good time. (This part should be made compulsory reading for all teenagers with an online life - but only this part, the rest of the book is too graphic and violent and would give them nightmares !) In this novel, nobody is who they seem to be. Every time you think you have worked out who the killer is, you find out you're wrong again, so you can really empathise with Bobby Dees and his team working the case. Even the ambiguous chapter openings starting with "he" lead you time and time again to jump to the wrong conclusions, only to realise once more that the author is toying with you.
As I mentioned before, although I really enjoyed reading this book and raced through it within a few days because I constantly wanted to find out what would happen next, I couldn't help thinking it resembled a lot of other similar titles I've read (and enjoyed) recently. Its one big advantage though is that the author really knows her stuff, having worked as an Assistant State Attorney with special assignments to the Domestic Violence and Legal Extraditon Units. That just makes the whole story even more chilling though because it is presumably pretty close to the reality !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £12.99
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (4 Feb 2010)